Halloween Costumes for Cheap/Free


This is NOT a “how to” because I am probably one of the least crafty people in the world so I am unlikely to do a pinterest-worthy make-your-own tutorial. Instead, I just wanted to give my experience and share how I’m handling the Halloween costume issue this year.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Halloween this year. And by “thinking” I mean dreading.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the holiday and, especially after having kids, it has taken on so much more meaning and become so much more fun! I have incredible memories of last year’s Halloween! We invited friends over, had the kids dress up (just at home – they were only 16 months old at the time so we didn’t go trick-or-treating since they didn’t eat candy) and spent the night handing out candy and hanging out with our buddies. A good, low-key night!

This year is different.

First, I’m on this big debt-reduction mission.

I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety and stress over the extra money being spent this month (for my friend’s wedding) coupled with the upcoming holiday expenses and the fact that our monthly income went from nearly $10,000 way back down to only just above $6,000 (side note….not looking great to break that figure for this month either). We’re used to living on about $5500 so its not an issue in terms of survival, but its definitely changing my projected debt pay-off dates and just feels a little “meh” after coming off the “high” of those few months where we were able to put $4,000 and $5,000 toward debt. Not so much anymore.

Plus there are some other financial concerns. It looks like I’m going to need to buy a couple of business outfits for an upcoming interview so I’ll need to set money aside for that, and – I never mentioned this – but remember my friend whose getting married? Her wedding is on Halloween (nontraditional, yes, but the venue was much cheaper that way).

So, all in all, I am just feeling a bit lackluster about this year’s Halloween. I still want to celebrate to the extent that I am able (given that I’ll be at a wedding on Halloween night instead of with my kiddos), but I definitely do NOT want to spend $50 on costumes for the girls to wear for a single night (costumes are crazy over-priced!!!).

I’ve been stewing over this issue for weeks and had not come to any sort of solution that I was happy with.

Then, totally unrelated to Halloween, I started cleaning out our closets. I’ve been inspired by Hope’s recent purge and have decided that we need to get rid of a LOT of stuff. I’d done a mini-purge a few months ago (remember when I wrote about selling stuff in facebook groups?), but I had underestimated the amount of JUNK that we still have lying around.

In my efforts to purge I came across a box of old toddler clothes and I started going through it to sort into piles for resale shop and donate. Guess what I come across – their ladybug costumes from last year!

Remember, last year they were 16 months old and the costumes were size 18 months. Even though the girls are now 28 months old I’m looking at the costumes and thinking, “these are basically shapeless bags…they’ll still fit, right???” I call the girls over and zip on the outer part of the ladybug costume. They zip right up and fit like a champ. What’s better is the girls now KNOW what a ladybug is so they are all excited, running around and shrieking, “LADYBUG! LADYBUG! LADYBUG!”


It’s settled. We’ll be ladybugs again!

In the box of clothes I even found the tights that came with the costume (black tights with red built-in footies), so the only thing missing is a solid black long-sleeve undershirt.

I threw the girls in the car (took them out of the costumes first), put the rest of the old toddler clothes in the car, and headed to the thrift shop. I found 2 long sleeve black shirts there and, after buying some of my clothes, I was able to purchase the 2 shirts using trade-in credit and not spending a dime out of pocket (plus I still have a couple bucks credit).

I’d call that a win any day!

I’m still a little bummed I’ll be missing Halloween this year. It would be their first year to actually go door-to-door. But we’ll have plenty of years ahead. Plus, our neighborhood is doing a free Harvest Festival this weekend and have advertised that they’ll be doing costume prizes! I think we may dress the girls up for the festival so I have a chance to get some pictures with them and spend some time together while they’re in costume. We’ll still have fun and they’ll never know it’s not Halloween.

What are you doing this year for Halloween? How do you keep the cost down for costumes?

Something to look forward to…


We’ve had a rough couple of weeks including the car wreck from last week.  Our budget has been tighter then normal with having to purchase replacement food and spend more to get the house on the market than anticipated.  In fact, I’ve still got a couple of bills to pay from that.  We are certainly not suffering, but additional stress has wreaked habit on my normally silver lining filled personality, and as a result, has affected the kids perspectives.

So my remedy…a vacation budget for all of us to see and contribute too!  And here it is!

Our vacation fund.

Our vacation fund.

We’ve decided our goal vacation is to backpack through Europe after taking a cruise ship to get over there. I know it will take a lot of pickle jars full, but with that lofty goal and a commitment from everyone to throw in their loose change…well, anything is possible right!

Don’t Jinx Me, But…..


Remember when I shared my last interview with you all?

It had gone so well and I was SO SURE I would get offered the position! Well, not only was I not offered a position, I never even heard back from them. (imagine in Full House‘s Stephanie Tanner voice:  How Rude!) I emailed them a week after the interview to ask if a hiring decision had been made and was told they expected a decision by the end of the week. The week came and went and…..(crickets)….nothing.

So I was almost reluctant to share this with you guys, but I’m sure you’ll be pulling for me and I’m not superstitious so here goes….

I’ve scored my first interview of the season.

What’s better?

It’s a campus visit interview. 


I’ve had a couple of phone interviews before (for jobs from last year’s academic hiring season) and had a couple places request additional information from me (e.g., additional writing samples or teaching/research statements that weren’t part of the original application packet), but this will be my FIRST campus visit interview!

I am so excited! And nervous! And excited!

I have absolutely no idea what to expect! Luckily, I’ve got some time to figure it all out. Generally when places do campus visit interviews its pretty short notice (e.g., “Can you be on a plane by this Wednesday?”) but this place is a little different. They’re hiring for two positions:  a full professor position and an assistant professor position. The interviews for the full professor position are going to be in November/December, and the interviews for the assistant professor position will be in February/March. As a new graduate, I had applied to the assistant professor position, so my campus visit won’t be for a few months.

When I last spoke with the committee chair, he seemed very excited. Like, almost unnatural-excited to have me come visit. He sounded genuinely upset that the visit wouldn’t be until February/March because he was worried I’d already be scooped up by another university and he relayed that the committee was very impressed with my stuff and really wants to meet me.

What the heck?

As a graduate student I have sat on hiring committees before and NEVER have I EVER seen anyone so excited for an applicant! I mean, even if they are, they don’t make it this obvious when they speak to him/her!

So, naturally, I’m trying not to get my hopes up. I also don’t want to divulge many details right now but I will say that if I land this position it will necessitate an out-of-state move. Lots to think about on that front (e.g., loss of husband’s job, job prospects in new place, cost-of-living versus offered salary, etc.) So many factors that I just have to put out of my mind right now until I know one way or another. All of these issues are moot if I don’t get an offer, so no point in stressing about the unknown.

One positive thing to come from this, though, is that it has really boosted my confidence.

I have to admit that being out of academia for over a year now with no job offers, my confidence has really been shaken. I worry about what happens if I don’t land a job this year. What it means on the long-term for my career. And, of course, the impact it has on our family’s income (not to mention my outrageous student loan debt situation). I’ve had a couple of employment-related hits in the past few months:  rejected manuscripts, no job offer, reduced contractor pay, etc.  There’s something about someone fawning all over you that really makes you feel better about yourself. Not in a big-headed I’m-so-awesome way, but more in an I-am-worthy-and-I-deserve-this way.

I know a few of you have experiences in academia – any tips on preparing for a campus visit interview (Even if you’re not in academia, if you have some advice or suggestions feel free to chime in!)

Wish Me Luck


Note from Ashley:  This post has nothing to do with debt. If that makes you upset, then just skip it and come back tomorrow. Thanks! : )

Today is the day!!!!

Remember when I mentioned that I’d secretly been training for a half-marathon (my first long-distance race since having the twins!!!) Well it’s today! 13.1 miles or bust!!!

When we had our coffee date I mentioned that I was scared I wouldn’t finish in time. Many half-marathons have cut-off times and they’ll pick you up and transport you back to the finish line if you aren’t done in time. I’ve always been a slow runner. In my pre-baby days I averaged about 10 1/2 – 11 minute miles. Post-babies (and 40 lbs heavier than my pre-baby days), I now average closer to (gulp) 13 1/2 – 14 minute miles. Yes. Speed walkers could probably keep up with my jogging pace. Anyway, take into consideration a couple short stops for water and stretching and we’re looking at an approximate finish time of at least 3 hours (don’t make fun! I’m doing the best that I can and this is a big deal for me!!!)

Well, I’m happy to say that they will NOT be kicking me off the course! The half marathon I’ll be running is called the TMC Get Moving Tucson half-marathon (for those interested in the cost of this, I got in early and only paid $30, which was paid for months ago and came from my “other” budget). It’s really geared toward a non-elite crowd and, as such, is friendly toward us slow joggers out there. The race organizers have finally updated their website and its clear that they will NOT kick us off the course! Wahoo!! At the 3-hour mark they re-open roadways and direct remaining runners to jog on the sidewalks but that’s a-okay with me (and hopefully I’ll be super close to being done by that point!) So as long as I don’t die or have some serious injury, by the time you read this I’ll be jogging my little heart out and will soon be receiving my first finishers medal in a long, long time.

Have I mentioned before how much I love running?

I feel lucky to have such a cheap/free hobby that I enjoy so much. I hope everyone is able to carve a minute or two (or 3 hours, as the case may be) to enjoy one of your favorite hobbies or past-times today.

Wish me luck!! Happy Sunday, y’all! 

The Downside of Living on Last Month’s Income


I’ve run into a problem with living on last month’s income. In general, I think its an awesome thing and has been really valuable for us. But maybe you YNAB-ers can fill me in on how to handle this situation….

You’ve got a budget all planned for the month and things are going well. Mid-way through the month (and everything is on track), something costly comes up. It cannot be put off until the following month and it is 100% for sure going to blow your budget.

If you are living on your current month’s income then maybe you can try to sell some things, work extra hours, or do whatever it takes to boost your income. But if you’re living on last month’s income then your income is already set and there’s really not much you can do about it (aside from “cheating” and using money from the current month’s income and/or dipping into savings). How is this issue best handled???

Let me tell you what’s happened/happening…

Remember my friend whose getting married? Her wedding is at the end of this month. Remember how I talked about giving her a decent-sized check because I’d initially thought I might be a bridesmaid, but since I’m not incurring any of those expenses I’d like to put (some of) the money I would have spent toward giving her a nice gift? Wellllllll, apparently things have changed.

What is it about the wedding industry that sucks people in and forces them to get all hyped up on the hoopla even when they’re trying to avoid it? I swear, its like they tell you that if you don’t get the monogramed napkins and matching monogrammed floor sticker that your marriage is doomed to divorce. I don’t want this to come off as talking badly about my friend but….she got sucked into the trap. And now, all of these things that didn’t exist before (bachelorette party, bridal shower, etc.) suddenly exist.

I had already budgeted to give her and her husband-to-be some money. Initially I’d thought $100-$150, and I ended up budgeting for $100. But that is it. There is no more wiggle room in our budget. Now, with two weeks notice, I have been invited (and would love to attend) a mini bachelorette the week of the wedding. Nothing crazy or over the top, but it’s a night out that will NOT fit in my eating out and/or entertainment budgets. And although she said no gifts, I feel like there’s an inherent expectation of maybe picking up a round of drinks or showing up to the party with some of those fun penis-shaped straws and whatever bachelorette parties entail. This all, of course, costs money. Maybe not a lot of money (certainly nowhere near as much as being a “real” bridesmaid would have cost), but money nonetheless and money I don’t have in our budget.

I know many will say simply not to go. But even though we may not be life-long friends (we met 4.5 years ago), she is one of my best friends in the state. We moved here at the same time (for school) when we didn’t know anyone else and have been through some serious life transitions together (weddings, babies, graduation, employment/lack thereof). I want to support her. I want to be there. So then do I just go and not really participate? Don’t buy her a drink, don’t buy myself a drink, don’t partake in the festivities? Do I give her less for her wedding and put some of that money toward these expenses? What would you do?

And, back to the down side of living on last month’s income, what do you do if you simply have an expense that exceeds your monthly budget/allotted income? Where does the extra money come from? I know a wedding/party is a whole different situation than a real necessary expense (like, a car tire blows out and HAS to be replaced immediately), but either way, how does this work with the YNAB living on last month’s income system?

Suggestions? Advice? What would you do?

You Get What You Pay For


Remember when I talked about the kiddos climbing out of their cribs and how we’d have to buy some expensive bed rails soon?

Well, I have an update to report.

Based on some of your suggestions I decided to opt for a bed rail as opposed to the fancy-pants (and $$$) toddler crib conversion kit. I ordered the cheapest crib rails I could find on ebay, to the tune of $25 + free shipping. Plus it was one of those “name your price” things so I emailed the vendor and asked if I could get a deal if I bought two. Out the door it ended up costing me $45 (a $5 savings) and I got free shipping to my house.

The problem, my friends, is that sometimes you get what you pay for.

The bed rails, although advertised as able to be used with a crib, are total crap. First, they’re made of cheapy plastic and I can tell they are going to fall apart soon. Second, they take up the entire length of the crib, so it’s very difficult still for the girls to get in and out of bed and they’re forced to still climb over the side. Even though it’s much lower than the old crib side, it still doesn’t seem safe. Particularly since the cheap pieces of plastic aren’t sturdy and were not intended to be climbed on/over. Sigh. We’re going to make do until the girls are old enough to simply have them removed entirely.


Bed Rail – Taking up the entire length of the crib and just generally being a piece of doo-doo.

But here’s a little life lesson for you. I could have bought a moderately priced bed/crib rail for $50 each, spent $100 out the door, and still saved more than $100 versus the cost of the toddler crib conversion kit. Instead, I opted for the $25 model ($50 for two), and bought total pieces of crap. Boo!!!! Sometimes, you get what you pay for.

Foot note: I don’t want this to sound like I’m blaming you guys since some of the readers had suggested the bed rails! Actually commenters provided exact links to better quality ones (not the cheapy ones I found on ebay), so this is 100% my fault! After proofing this it sounded almost like I’m mad at you guys for giving me the suggestion and I don’t want it to come across that way at all!!! On the contrary, I’m always grateful for your suggestions!

Have you ever bought the cheap version of something only to find out later it was total crap? On the flip side, what have you scored for a lower-cost that ended up being just as good as the full price product?

(I’ve had pharmacist friends say to always, always by generic medicine because its the exact same, often manufactured in the same factory and just put into different boxes. So that’s one thing where the cheap version has worked just as well as the higher-priced name brand product for my purposes)

Car Wreck, Real Estate Agent and Rotten Food


Yup, the title says it all about how my day went today…not exactly how I’d planned it.

Over the weekend, we discovered that our refrigerator had lost power, and it had been off for at least a couple of days.  Can you say grotesque smelling!!!  How? You ask, could I have gone that long without noticing the power was out?  Well, the kids had said, “Hey Mom, the refrigerator light is out?” and I took that to mean that we needed a new bulb, not that we lost power.  Ugh!  I didn’t cook a lot either since I was the event planner for a large event on Saturday and then Sunday went from church to choir practice to…you see how it went.

So today after I dropped the twins at the FIRST (competitive robotics) team’s weekly meeting, the little’s and I went to Sam’s to grocery shop.  Then I had to head to the bank to get the money to pay my replacement painter…who finished yesterday!  It was raining, there was lots of traffic and we were stopped at a red light…the CRASH!  A large work van rammed into the back of my large van.  Boy, was I grateful we were in the large van and not the little Honda Accord I will be driving once it sells.  So grateful!  But his van is now un-driveable and mine is damaged.

So while I was dealing with the police and firemen and insurance companies and children who were excited to be so close to all this action, my phone rang and I let it go to voicemail.  I’m thankful that the other driver has car insurance.  I am thankful that the police responded so quickly so my new replacement food did not spoil.  I am grateful that no one was hurt (this is really my first grateful so don’t take these as order of importance.) And what I’m really grateful for is that my dad took us to the movies this week to see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day! If you haven’t seen it, you should, and you will understand why it meant a lot after the day I was having.

So got the insurance claim filed, got home with my new groceries, ran the gymnast to his workout, ran back to pick up the twins, walked the dogs in the rain and went back to pick up little gymnast.  It was a crazy full day.  It was hard and full of bickering between the kids, lots of chauffeuring to activities and so much more.

But as I wound down from the wreck, I noticed a voice mail on my phone….

A real estate agent called and has a client who is VERY INTERESTED in my house and wants to show it tomorrow.  So today was Hope’s Stress Filled, Over-crowded, Rain Filled, Over the top Day…and someone who is VERY INTERESTED in buying my house is going to look at it tomorrow morning. (The ad went out today, the website went up yesterday.)

So sorry for the late post, but today I am so grateful for my many, many blessings…money to buy more groceries when the power is out, a cozy home on a rainy day, a big car that protected us from what could have been a very bad wreck, that my kids are bright and engaged and involved and mostly, right now…that someone who is VERY INTERESTED is going to see my house tomorrow.