Moving Update – One Week Away

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Exactly one week from today we will be moving into our new space…cutting down from 1800 sq ft to 900 sq ft.  I am SO PROUD of how well my kids have gotten on board with this move and the minimizing and purging we have been doing over the last six weeks since this move became a reality.  So here’s where we are at today, one week from move day.

  • Little Gymnast and Princess rooms are completely empty.  They have moved into my room, just as we will be living in the apartment.  We have a king size bed and a twin mattress on the floor.  (At this time, I am also taking a double mattress that slides under my kind size bed just in case we need our own space ie they fight too much on who sleeps where.)
  • All of us have packed all of our clothes except for 3 outfits which we will use for the next week.  There is one exception to this, History Buff and Sea Cadet are attending their first Cotillion dance of the season on Saturday so they kept out their suit and dress shoes for that event.)
  • Every closet has been cleaned out and packed.
  • Every bathroom cabinet has been cleaned out and packed.
  • The twins room is down to bare bones with just their twin mattresses on the floor and their clothing (three outfits and suit each.)
  • The living space is all packed up except for computers, tv and video games.
  • My “office” area (in my room) is beginning to get purged and packed.  I will get it down to just computer and desk by Friday.  Lots of digitizing and shredding going on along with testing electronic equipment and matching it with all cords in ziploc bags for packing.
  • The kitchen will get packed over the weekend.  We have purged all the cabinets so the only items remaining are those that we will live with, but I am keeping those out as long as possible so we can continue eating at home and using up the food we have here.

All items packed and ready for move are labeled and stacked neatly in the garage for easy loading into the moving truck next Tuesday night.

I think we are ready and very prepared for a stress free, as stress free as moving can be that is, move next week.  And I am proud to say that the only money spent in getting to this place is as follows:

  • 1/2 dozen rolls of packing tape at $3 per roll = $36
  • 3 trips to the dump @ $24 – someone had given me $12 when they moved = $12 (uses convenience coupons you have to purchase)
  • Gas for 12 trips to thrift stores = $0 (negated by receipts for donations)
  • Boxes (From curb of neighbors on recycling days and twins dad’s job) = FREE
  • Garage Sale (advertised for free on Craigslist and Facebook, no signs or newspaper ads) = FREE

Total $48

And we have easily made that back in our garage sale, donation and bartering. We are ready!


Barter Win – Homeschool Tuition

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Sorry, I was MIA last week.  I woke up last Wednesday just simply overwhelmed at the amount of work I/we still had to get done and facing working both jobs plus approximately 3 hours in the car with kid chauffeuring duties.  I made an executive decision and called in to my part time job and then got all the kids up super early and got down to business.  That day turned the corner for me in terms of this move and now I’m in a much better place mentally!  There is definitely something to be said for “mental health” days, that’s for sure.

So moving past that I wanted to tell about a recent financial win.  As I have mentioned I barter for almost all of my kids activities.  But one thing I’ve never been able to to barter for was our homeschool co op tuition, and this year with four kids going it was over $2000.  Ugh!  This is the first year that I’ve had all four homeschooling year round so the first time for this large of a bill.  Not to mention the older two are taking more advanced, thus more expensive courses.

Typically my little one’s dad comes up with at least 1/2 of theirs, but this year he is in a transition phase and is short on money.  He did help but nearly so much as he normally does.  (Note: We do not have a formal financial arrangement of any kind.  I tell him when the kids need things and if he can, and most of the time he can, he helps out.  I have no complaints at all about his contribution and while it is not viewed as the traditional child support arrangement it works for us and takes the financial stress out of an already stressful relationship.)

So I was facing a really large bill at an already stressful time.  (This tuition is lumped into the monthly line item of my budget of Kid’s Activities in case you were wondering.)  Ok, so what to do.  Well, as you know, we are minimizing like no body’s business over here.  Our garage sale was an overwhelming success and I have been advertising on Facebook and Craigslist, etc.  So my win…

One of the teachers who teaches three of my children year long just so happened to need a couple of pieces of furniture that I had…and voila, like that a barter deal was worked out, my furniture for a full years tuition for 3 children, 1 class each…SCORE!  For those who want numbers this equates to about $600 in tuition.  SCORE!


Money Saving Tricks, Part 5

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It’s been awhile since I added a trick to my money saving series (see previous money saving posts here: Part 1, 2, 3, & 4).

Today I’ve got a new one to share with you guys….homemade organic weed killer!

It’s monsoon season in Arizona, which means weeds are springing up all over the place! Our weed situation has gotten a bit out of control and I know the HOA doesn’t take kindly to that, so I needed to get ours pulled before we got in trouble from the landlord/homeowner.

I knew we still had a thing of weed-killer from last year but (just my luck) when I tried to use it something with the sprayer was broken and nothing would come out. Even if it had worked, it wasn’t enough to spray on all of our weeds.

Of course, you don’t need weed killer (you can always just rip them up by hand), but it makes pulling them soooooo much easier and faster since the root system is already dead. And we have a LOT of weeds, so we’re talking about saving a LOT of time.

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back side-yard

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front side-yard

It’s a total hot mess right now!

Enter problem: weed killer is actually pretty expensive. The Round Up brand is in the $20-$25ish range….a big chunk of our budget that we do not have room for!

So I did a little googling and discovered that I could actually make my own weed killer completely from ingredients we already had on hand. As a bonus, it would be totally organic and safe for the kiddos (since they love to traipse around all over the yard).

I used a Home Depot 5 gallon bucket and mixed together water, distilled vinegar, salt, and dish soap. Yep, that’s it! I didn’t measure exact proportions, but I loosely modeled my “recipe” after the one shared on this site.

My plan was to show you beautiful before and after photos so you could see how well the yard looks with no more weeds in it, but……well, life happens and I haven’t actually pulled the weeds yet. Heh. Soon, though! Very soon! I can already tell that the root system is dying (they’re starting to brown and droop over), so at least now when I do pull them they’ll come right up very easily!

Homemade weed killer for the win!

Share your favorite money saving trick (doesn’t have to be about lawn care – anything you’ve done lately to save money???)


Necessary Expenses

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Our month of lower income has unfortunately coincided with lots of extra necessary expenses.

Sigh.

First, I had to pay for my annual life insurance premium. Remember, the full amount was $207. I was able to use some money from my “annual expenses” savings account, but I still had to spend $94 from my “other” budget (out of a total $150 budgeted for monthly “other” expenses). Note – my husband finally received his paperwork saying all his stuff has been approved, but he is STILL waiting on the final contract. I don’t know why there are so many steps involved in life insurance coverage, but we will owe another few hundred for his premium when the contract arrives. Even if we wait to pay it next month, its a big expense.

Second, my daughters decided to have a little developmental-milestone growth spurt this weekend. They already knew how to open some doors (depending on the door knob), but within a 12-hour span they have learned how to open ALL the doors in our house AND have learned to climb out of their cribs. Why does everything happen at once??? Gulp! We knew this would happen eventually, but we’ve just been putting it on the back burner. This weekend we went to Walmart and stocked up on the door knob handle things (like these) that make it difficult for toddlers to open doors. Those were cheap. Know what’s NOT cheap? The conversion kit that is used to convert a crib into a toddler bed. For those without toddlers who have no idea what I’m talking about….when kids start climbing out of their cribs, the conventional wisdom is that it’s time to convert to toddler beds. To do so, you take off the front part of the crib, and replace it with a small safety rail thing to keep the kid from accidentally rolling out of bed in his/her sleep. Here’s an example (image from this site)

bed

That little dinky piece of wood on the front costs in the range of 80-125 bucks! Times 2, since we have twins.

And our final extra expense = clothes. It was my goal to get through this full blogging year (March 2013-March 2014) without purchasing any clothing. I did get a skirt from Nordstrom Rack using a gift card, but I haven’t paid for an article of clothing during this whole time. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much longer that can last. I don’t know if any other women can relate, but I have a closet and dresser FULL of clothes that I don’t wear. A lot of these clothes are from my pre-pregnancy body (which I have mentioned was smaller than my current body, lol). Anyway, I only have a couple of things in my current size and, now that I’ve been my current size for 2 years, these things are getting worn out! It’s not as noticeable with shirts, but my pants/capris have seen better days. The pair of capri pants I am currently wearing have already been mended to fix a hole that had developed along the seam in the crotch. Wellllll, I have just noticed that the hole is back….right next to the area where I had mended them. I guess this means the fabric is just worn out. I could mend again, but I think it’s just a matter of time until I officially retire these pants. I have been making an honest, concerted effort to try to loose some weight (my hope is to get back to pre-pregnancy weight, which is why I haven’t sold my old stuff – I really want to get back to that place, and then I’ll have a full wardrobe I can pick from!). I’ve had some success in losing a little weight, but I still have a ways to go and I’m going to need pants in the meantime.

What to do, what to do….

Basically, the budget is blown. I’m really trying to avoid any extra spending this month because we’re living on last month’s income and only have a set amount of money to work with. But then all of these expenses get pushed to next month and the budget is going to be crazy-blown for October! Just the life insurance, alone, blows the budget. Add on the baby purchases and a pair of pants and we’re donezo!

I see the pants as the least immediate need, but the toddler crib conversion needs to happen asap. One of my girls has already gotten hurt by falling when she was trying to climb out of the crib after naps (one of my girls has it down, and her sister tries to copy but isn’t quite as adept at it yet). The life insurance thing is pretty important, too! Basically, I think all of these things need to happen. Maybe not today, but soon.

Fortunately, this month should be much better financially than last month (knock on wood), so I’m hoping that we’ll have a larger budget to work with when I’m allocating all of these expenses next month. But each dollar spent on these items is, necessarily, one less dollar spent on debt payments. And I look ahead toward the holiday season with worry. Ideally, we’d start buying a few gifts here and there so as to alleviate the financial burden of Christmas in the month of December, but it already looks like October is going to be a bust, so we can’t even think about Christmas gifts until November/December. Or perhaps Christmas gifts just get slashed from the budget this year entirely? One thing’s for sure – it’s gonna be a tough couple of months ahead.

What would you do? Put off all purchases until October? Try to hold out on the pants? Maybe ghetto-rig the crib conversion somehow for the time being? Maybe I can go donate plasma to make some extra money (I half-joke, but I have totally donated plasma in my younger days as a way to supplement my income. If you didn’t know, it’s a real thing you get paid real money to do…)


Reader Poll: Hourly Pay versus Flat Rate Pay

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Hi guys!

I’ve had a crazy past couple of days! Someone front-ended me yesterday (as in, I was stopped behind them in a parking lot waiting to exit and they decided to reverse right into my front-end). This is the first “accident” I’ve been in with another person since I’ve owned this car! No fun (no worries – they admitted complete fault and no one was hurt…just inconvenient as now I have to go get estimates and will probably be without my car for a few days while repairs are being done).

Aaaaaanyway, that’s a whole other story. Really I just popped in to ask a quick question…..

Remember how I mentioned awhile back that University B (for whom I do research projects) switched their pay from hourly to a flat rate per project completion?

Well, they have called a mandatory conference call meeting today with all of the contract employees to discuss our current project. In the past, I’ve always been able to bill for my time when we do a conference call at my normal hourly rate. BUT, since they’ve now switched us to receiving a flat rate of pay per project, does this basically mean I can’t bill for my time that’s involved in the conference call (in the past, our calls have generally been about an hour). To further complicate things, there are still some things that I get to bill hourly on, but our current projects have been switched to the flat rate. I know this is confusing. But, basically, I’m saying that I’m not paid 100% from flat-rate (there are still some hourly things).

I mentioned to my husband that I need to alter my September invoice to include the hourly rate for this conference call and he looked at me like I was crazy. Since the call is specifically about our current project (which is billed at the flat-rate pay), he says I don’t get paid extra for the call.

What do you guys think? Would you bill extra for your time on the conference call or just count it as working hours toward the project completion (billed at the flat rate)?

Hope you all have a great weekend!


How To Make Your Own Pumpkin Spiced Coffee For Cheap!!!

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Does anyone follow Food Babe? She recently posted an expose about Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte. Now, as much as I love and appreciate Food Babe’s crusade to make big companies accountable and to use higher quality ingredients, I don’t 100% subscribe to everything. I eat plenty of non-organic foods and I buy plenty of prepared foods (which she would be totally against!). But, seeing some of the McNasty ingredients in the PSL made me super bummed. Sure, I don’t frequently buy coffee because I make my own at home, but I always look forward to at least one or two PSLs during the Fall season. Not this year, my friends! I’ll be saving my money by making my own for way less and way healthier! No high fructose corn syrup, no carcinogenic carmel coloring, and no sugar (unless you want to add some of your own!)

This is something I’ve been doing for years! I’m obsessed with all things pumpkin and when Fall rolls around you’ll be hard pressed to keep me away from the inevitable pumpkin-craze! I actually shared this tip in the comments of an earlier post, but thought I’d share it here for all to see. : )

Ingredients:

  • Favorite coffee. I buy pre-ground stuff, usually vanilla-flavored. It doesn’t have to be flavored, but vanilla works really well with this “recipe.”
  • Appropriate spices. I keep it simple and just use pumpkin pie spice, but if you don’t have that on hand you could use a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and other traditional Fall flavored spices.
  • Canned (or cooked) pumpkin. You won’t need much, but you can store leftovers in the fridge.
  • Milk or milk alternative. I tend to like really creamy coffee, but I don’t want all the extra calories so I’ll use a lower-cal almond milk with just a splash of the “real” stuff (I use 2%).
  • Sweetener of choice. For years I have used agave nectar in my coffee (it’s delicious, try it!), but you could use sugar or any sugar substitute of your choice.

Directions:

First, prepare your coffee grounds. I like to mix it all up together in the actual coffee can, but you could certainly mix it up for a single coffee pot sized serving if you prefer. Simply mix your spices into the coffee grinds. Use a little more than you think you need, until you can really see the specks of brown (cinnamon, nutmeg) amidst all the black coffee grounds. You should be able to smell the stuff through the coffee scent when you’re done. Brew your coffee as usual.

Put a heaping teaspoon of pumpkin (canned or cooked fresh) in the bottom of your mug of coffee, then pour the hot coffee over the top. Stir and stir until all the pumpkin is completely dissolved.

Next, add your milk and sweetener of choice (if you prefer, you can also skip this step if you like black coffee). If you want a truly coffee-house style drink, warm up your milk a little and use a frother to really get a good foam going before you pour it into your coffee. A friend bought me a frother for $2.50 from Ikea for Christmas last year after I’d had coffee at her house and raved about how incredible it was. I’d had no idea you can get a frother so cheap! (this is it here < not an affiliate link).

Finally, drink up!!!

 

I know it sounds weird to put pumpkin in your coffee, but I PROMISE you that it’s delicious! If you stir it up until it dissolves you can’t even tell (warning, if you don’t completely stir you may be left with a little hunk of pumpkin at the bottom of your coffee when you’re done). When you’re done, you get the most incredibly delicious pumpkin-flavored coffee ever!!! I’m telling you guys – I used to buy the seasonal Trader Joe’s pumpkin coffee when it came out, but my own personal recipe has entirely replaced it! You can make it for pennies, particularly if you already have the appropriate spices. And the leftover pumpkin can be stored in the fridge to be used in tomorrow’s cup, or to be added to other pumpkin-y treats. Some of my favorite options include:  Add a scoop of pumpkin to pancake mix for pumpkin pancakes, make pumpkin muffins, stir it into oatmeal for a Fall flavored pumpkin oatmeal, make a smoothie with vanilla yogurt, banana, and pumpkin, mix with vanilla yogurt for a pumpkin yogurt snack – the possibilities are endless!

I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as I do! If you try it out, let me know what you think!!

Happy (beginning of) Pumpkin Season!!!!

 


Making Do: Hair Color

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So I’ve decided to really try to stick to bare-minimums of all non-essential purchases for the rest of this year and see how much traction we can gain on our debt situation (after a full year of blogging – March 2015 – I’ll probably slow down on debt-repayment a bit. See more in my post about life balance).

Last time I shared a “making do” story it was about my desk chair. By the way, this month is not looking good for getting either a desk chair or a new-to-us dining table. With our lower-than-average income, all non-essentials have been slashed. I’m still religiously checking out freecyle and the “free” section of craigslist, but so far no luck. We really don’t have the funds to buy anything this month though (even for very cheap second-hand stuff).

Well, another area that I’ve been “making do” with is my hair care. The last time I got my hair professionally done was back in March just before I started blogging here, and it was a disaster.

At first, I was just not getting my hair done because it didn’t need it – it had just been done! Then I wasn’t getting it done because I couldn’t justify the expense to you all (oh you, always keeping me accountable!). Eventually, I wasn’t getting it done because it had already been so long, it had almost become a thing of personal pride. Look at me and how long I’ve gone without getting my hair professionally cut and colored (6 months….but whose counting? ; ))

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Fun photo of my current hair situation – you can clearly see my roots and new growth here. It’s about 3 inches!

And, since I’m all gung-ho and really trying to do the minimalistic thing for at least a year (which would take us to March 2015, at which point I’ll hopefully have the car fully paid off!!!!), I’ve decided that’s it. NO PROFESSIONAL HAIR CARE FOR A YEAR. This was not something I started out thinking would happen, but this is where we are now and I’m committed to the cause!

And so I started waiting, oh so patiently, for some hair color coupons. We do not pay for the newspaper, but our community does papers on Wednesdays for free (I think because all the ads are in the Wednesday paper). Sometimes (not always) there are coupons in the Wednesday paper. And so for the past month I have been waiting and checking, Wednesday after Wednesday, for a coupon for hair color.

And finally it has come! (And just this second I realized I probably could have googled a coupon – DOH!!! – oh well, this has been a lesson in patience).

And this week I will add an inexpensive hair color to my grocery cart while at the store. I will color my own hair and will continue to do so for the rest of the year (again – meaning until March 2015, not the end of the calendar year).

My next task shall be learning to cut my own hair. I’m a little scary-excited about it and have already been googling all types of youtube videos and how-to articles. Let it be known, I will NOT attempt to do anything fancy/crazy. I’m talking about doing a simple trim to keep my hair healthy and the split ends away. So don’t worry about me showing up with a completely botched hair-job. I will invest in actual hair-cutting scissors but, aside from that, no other financial investment will go into my hair cuts.

I’m pretty excited to do this myself and (a) see if anyone even notices anything different and (b) save all the $$$ that would otherwise be going to hair care expenses!

I have to admit – doing this makes me feel pretty hard-core. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back! ; )

Do you cut and color your own hair? If so, any tips you can offer and/or good how-to websites or videos I should check out???


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