Browsing posts in: Kids & Money

Happy Easter!

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For those who celebrate, I hope you had a great Easter yesterday! It was the first year that the girls really got it on their own. In the past, we’ve held hands and more-or-less led them to eggs, coaxing them to pick them up and place in their baskets, etc. Not this year. We went to our neighborhood’s egg hunt and as soon as they gave the command, the girls RAN to get eggs. It brought me so much joy to watch their excitement, but it also made picture-taking a bit challenging since I could only get shots of their backs as they RAN away to find more eggs. : )

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This was our “before” shot. Excuse my wild hair fly-aways! It hit 90 degrees that day so I had to throw my hair into an unplanned pony – it was too hot to keep down!!!

I know I’m late this year, but I wanted to share one of the Easter crafts we made that we sent to family. We have a long history of mailing kid crafts in lieu of “real” gifts for many different holidays (e.g., Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc. – see my Year-in-Review posts for links to various crafts: 2015 and 2016). This year was no different. Here’s one of the crafts we made to send out to loved ones:

IMG_5494We got some kid’s crafts from Michael’s for 50% off (I LOVE that they do sales PRIOR to the holiday and not just as a clearance after the holiday has passed). There was one day during Spring Break that we’d gone in and just happened to be there during a kid craft hour. The girls were able to make two crafts (one was a painting on actual canvas, the other was a whole Spring Break scrapbook that was absolutely adorable). The class only cost $2 per child, and killed a solid 2 hours worth of time (= WIN!!) and then I picked up a couple Easter crafts to take home (which was the whole point of our trip). The girls LOVED the crafts (both in-store and the ones we bought to take home), and with the 50% off sale, the crafts only cost $2.50/each (we bought two different craft packages:  the egg pictured above, and a bunny rabbit craft, unpictured – both packages came with enough to make 2).

We mailed the crafts out about a week or so ago and when we made the rounds of phone calls to family to wish everyone a Happy Easter, the great-grandmas were tickled pink over the little crafts they’d received. Each boasting about where theirs was hung or displayed. It was pretty sweet.

I hope everyone had a great weekend! Have a great start to your Monday!


Spring Break (+ Feb. Debt Update)

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Hi All!

Last year, my first year back to full-time work, my Spring Break happened to align with my kids’ Spring Break. I remember at the time colleagues mentioning how lucky that was and to appreciate it. So it was no real surprise when this year rolled around and, looking at our academic calendars, I realized our Spring Breaks did not align. Bugger!

But, I think we’re also making the best out of having separate Spring Breaks! This week is my school’s Spring Break (and hubs’ Spring Break as well). I’ll be back in Texas for a couple days to deal with some dad-related issues. But otherwise, hubs and I are looking forward to doing some serious manual labor out in our backyard. When we bought the house, it had nothing but chest-high weeds all through the back. We mowed them all down, but have done very little since then. Hubs has a friend who owns a landscape company and came over to take a look at our yard and offer some practical suggestions in terms of plants, placement, etc. So for the cost of some plants + weed killer + some hard work and elbow-grease, we’re hoping to get our backyard into a more presentable condition. We’ve allotted $200 to the project. It would be a project the girls could help us with…but will probably be easier without the interference, er, “help.” And I like that the couple days I’ll be gone are on days that they’re already in school. Makes it a bit easier for the hubs and makes me feel less guilt about being away (quick Dad update for those who have been following along and are interested – skip this part if you’re only here for the financial -my Dad, who has frontotemporal dementia, continues to decline. His speech is almost gone at this point and he lives in a constant state of agitation, presumably from the confusion and frustration associated with what’s happening to him. He’s been living in an independent living facility but we’ve been touring several assisted living and dedicated memory-care places. It’s a tough move to make but it’s coming up probably sooner rather than later so we’re trying to research and prepare accordingly. Being that the purpose of my trip is for things related to his care, my sister and I decided he would cover the cost of my airfare – something he would have done in the past if he had the mental capacity. I’ll be staying with my mom so I’ll have free lodging, and will only be paying my meals out of pocket which should be minimal. I’ll be there not quite 3 days.)

Next week is our girls’ Spring Break. In the future, I hope that we can plan family vacations (or even staycations) during Spring Break week, but with our looming tax debt ahead, that’s certainly not in the cards this year. Instead, we’re lucky to be able to hodgepodge together some childcare without having to pay extra to a babysitter. Hubs has class Mon/Wed (but is available other days) and I teach on Tues/Thurs (but am available other days), so between us, we’ll be able to always have one parent home with the kiddos.

I’m still on operation minimal-spending, too. It’s not a complete spending freeze because we still have to purchase essentials like food, fuel, etc. But I have been extra mindful about every dollar being spent. As an example, one of my daughters lost her water bottle for the second time this school year. Last time, I just jumped on Amazon and bought her a new one. This time around, I’m making her take my water bottle as a back-up. I explained that we can’t just get something new every time we lose our old item. It’s been a nice lesson in natural consequences and how its important to keep track of our things. It’s a bit of a punishment because my water bottle isn’t a nice or “cool” as the kid version, but at least it’s an adequate replacement so she’s not going without one. I’m really trying to scrimp and save and see if we can pay our full tax debt ourselves rather than relying on borrowing. I really want it PAID IN FULL by the deadline. I did talk to my sister, however, and if I need to borrow money from my dad it would be an option available to us. I really want to avoid this. It’s such “messy” terrain and I just don’t like the feeling. But I would be able to save the interest + penalties associated with an IRS payment plan. Something to think about, should it come to that (I still don’t have exact figures from our accountant).

In the meantime, I want to share my February 2017 Debt Update. As mentioned in a previous post, the debt payment was less than my originally intended $3,000 payment because I decided to just pay debt minimums toward my student loans so I can try to save up the extra money to put toward our IRS debt. Here you go:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$11,1055.8034February82433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86085.8025February
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$84966.5533February
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$71976.5529February
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63726.5525February
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$84976.5534February
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$98056.5519February
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$14000% (through Sept 2017)$800February$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$45940% (through October 2018)$0N/A
Medical Bills$43700% (must be paid by April)$1216February$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$70,444 (Jan balance = 72,560)$2215Starting Debt = $145,472

This month (March), I’m putting less toward the balance transfer card – only $400 instead of the $800 I gave in February. I do NOT want to add “IRS” to the debt spreadsheet, so I’m just stockpiling money in hopes we can pay them their money and not move backward in our debt progression. That will mean lower debt payments for the next couple months (March & April). Even small progress is moving in the right direction.

Have you had any financial set-backs lately?

 

 


Valentine’s Day Kid’s Craft

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We have a long history of using homemade kid’s crafts as a way to give gifts to friends or family in an affordable way, while still having a personal, meaningful touch.

This year, we decided to make some homemade Valentines for the kids’ class. To be fair, we did still buy some Valentines because the twins are in the same preschool classroom so we didn’t want to be giving identical/duplicate homemade gifts. But doing one fully homemade (and the other store-bought), we still saved 50% of the money!

Better yet, our craft used all things that we already owned so we didn’t spend a single penny on any of these!

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For Halloween we had bought a giant Costco-sized package of mini playdoughs to give out for kids who needed/wanted a non-candy treat. They ended up not being very popular among our trick-or-treaters (go figure! lol) so we still have a pretty good sized pile leftover. I decided to use those instead of a candy for the basis of our Valentine’s Day “Card” to give to classmates (last year, one of our daughters came home and promptly threw up from the candy/sugar-overload, so I purposely emphasized non-candy treats this year).

I helped the girls to cut out the hearts. I wrote the message on the front and the girls signed their names on the back and decorated with heart-shaped stickers (every valentine was different and unique). Finally, I was able to fold over some tape to affix the playdough to the card. They’re little mini-sized ones, so the tape held just fine.

I think my hand-writing could have been neater and we could have decorated a little better if we’d spent more time. But for 4-year-old Valentines, it’s not half bad. ; )

If you want to check out last year’s home-made Valentine’s Card (+ a bonus homemade idea I “borrowed” from a classmate), check out this post.

Do you ever make homemade Valentine’s for your kids’ class exchanges? Have you seen any other good homemade Valentine’s card ideas? 


2017 Planning

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Hi friends! How is 2017 treating you so far? So far, so good over here! Just trying to balance work and childcare (always!!) The kids have been out of school all last week (they go back to preschool this coming Monday) so I’ve been drowning in work-related tasks while I’ve been trying to juggle childcare with hubs. Yikes!

Speaking of hubs – a quick work-related update:

Remember when we spoke about hubs going back to school full-time and closing the doors to his business?? Well, slight change of plans…

He IS going back. He’s starting with 9 credit hours; his classes meet on Mondays and Wednesdays. That leaves him with quite a bit of spare time still on his hands (though, to be fair, his classes are basically ALL.DAY on M/W, so he’ll need to spend quite a bit of time on the other weekdays actually studying, doing homework, etc.).

Anywho, hubs landed a really big contract around October-ish that was supposed to be completed by the end of 2016. For newer readers, hubs is a wood floor contractor & installer. Unfortunately, the contract was for a big “new build” condo complex and anyone who is familiar with new build knows that they are rife with setbacks and delays. The same was true here. Floors are one of the last things to go into a new home, so hubs’ schedule kept getting pushed back more and more and more while other contractors were working on their parts of the project.

I think you can see where this is going.

The project was not complete by the end of 2016. Not even close. In fact, hubs had only just barely begun! (again – this was due to no fault of his own – this is just how new builds sometimes go).

At this point in time, hubs has a two-man crew still working for him. Rather than renege on the contract he had signed, he’s having his crew continue working for him on this big project. He’ll be able to check in on days he’s not in class to make sure all is running smoothly and according to schedule, but it shouldn’t be a big time commitment for him since the work is actually being completed by his crew.

After paying salaries, he obviously wont’ be making as much as if he were doing the work himself (which was the initial plan when we thought it would be done by the end of 2016), but he’ll still be making a nice little chunk on the side which will help add a bit of a buffer as we transition into the land of no-more-work. I think this is a great thing, though. It will be nice to have a month or two of additional side-income (from hubs’ business) before we transition into me being the sole earner in the household.

Speaking of, I’ve been running numbers over and over again trying to make our 2017 budget “work.” I think it’s just going to require a bit of flexibility because right now with our debt-payment goals and everything else….if I were the sole earner it just wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t be making enough to cover our budgeted items.

To be fair, this is with a budget that is dolling out $3,000/month for debt payments, alone. It may be that some months we are unable to make such a large debt payment. As I’ve alluded to, I also have some employment changes in the future, too, so there are lots of balls up in the air and lots of considerations at hand.

I currently have a few blog post drafts going (one with a 2017 budget and one with 2017 financial goals). I’ll do my best to try to get one of those posts up this coming week. I’m just counting down the days/minutes until we have regular childcare again! Whew! Especially now with the girls being older (4.5 years) and not napping – there is not a single break during the day in which I can get real work done. I do a good job of attending to emails, etc. but anything other than the basic necessities is pretty tough to squeeze in! Yikes! Any work-from-home parents out there?? How do you do it!?!? The kids each have little workbooks so I’ve tried to have “work time” for all of us (like, we’ll all sit down to do “work” together), but the interruptions are constant and, while that’s okay when I’m just doing emails, it makes it challenging to do any serious work that requires extended concentration, etc. I’d love any tips (though, hopefully this problem will dissolve once preschool is back in session!)

Have a lovely weekend!!


The Best $0.46 I spent this Christmas

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How many of you are members of rewards programs at the different stores you are shopping at this Christmas?  Go ahead and raise your hand, we can’t see you.  I think I’ve mentioned before different earnings I’ve gotten from the rewards programs.  I am members of a ton of them…only free ones.  And this month I’ve gotten lots of freebies or special coupons because it’s my birth month.

I mentioned that Christmas was going to be very learn, even non-existent from me in regards to actual purchased items in my last post. Then I collected our mail before we headed out of town.  And there it was a $10 coupon to Dick’s Sporting Goods, no minimum purchase required.

Princess and I dropped Gymnast at the local gym for his practice and ran across the street to the store.  I ran right to the clearance rack in the boy’s section and found my $10.46 pair of gym shorts for little Gymnast.  I paid $0.46!

I should have taken a picture, but I rushed back to wrap them.  They are white.  I would never buy white, even though he’s begged every time he gets new shorts .  But I figured at $0.46, if he ruined them, I wouldn’t cry too much.  Now he will have 3 pairs of shorts to work out in (he’s going to the gym 20 hours a week.)   A great blessing since we don’t have a washer and dryer so keeping him in clean shorts daily can be a challenge!

Tell me about your shopping win this Christmas season!  (I will post a picture of him in his new white shorts when tries them on after Christmas!)


Christmas on a Shoestring Budget

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Today we leave to stay at my grandmother’s in Georgia for a month.  I cannot wait! I get to sleep in a bed, have heat day and night and have indoor plumbing (have to go over to the trailer to use the bathroom where we are at now.)  It is going to be joyous.  These are things I will never take for granted again!

I have less income now than I’ve had all year with the cut in the twins’ adoption assistance and being informed yesterday that there would be no work hours until Dec. 14th and I didn’t have any the last two weeks either.  Needless to say, Christmas is going to be almost non-existent.  Almost…

Princess and I learned to knit in the last month.  This is something I have wanted to do for YEARS!  A new store opened up here locally and offered $10 beginning classes along with 10% off the supplies.  We’ve taken off like gang-busters.  She has become a whiz at making hats, teaching herself after learning the two basic stitches, and I’m quite adept at knitting straight lines now.  We’ve both been working on making presents for anyone we could think of who would enjoy them.

A couple of the hats Princess has knitted as presents.

A couple of the hats Princess has knitted as presents.

The little ones dad sent them both $50 at the end of September for the state fair, and both of them managed to save some of it.  Gymnast cleaned my car for another $10 this week, so I took him shopping last night.  He managed to buy thoughtful, practical gifts that I think everyone will enjoy staying within his budget.  (He shopped at $5 and Below and got some really great presents if I do say so myself.)  He has also gotten creative with reusing some canvases he had previously painted.  Painting over them and creating new masterpieces to give as gifts.

Original paintings that have now been repurposed to Christmas presents.

Original paintings that have now been re-purposed to Christmas presents.

I have not had quite as much luck in figuring out what to do for gifts for the kids, but at this point am planning to try and fill their stockings with goodies and that will be it. I’ve been collecting free samples of soaps (not hotel kinds, but more homemade stuff,) notebooks and anything else I can find. This is the first year that we will not be in our own space for Christmas. No Christmas decorations, no menu planning, no traditions from the past. I did dig out the stockings and will be taking them with us (the kids don’t know.) I think it will be nice to have something from our old life with this new Christmas. I have been thinking that I could create a certificate for a “mom and child” date so when I do have some money I could take each child out to eat at a favorite restaurant. Thought that might be kind of special and something to look forward to.

I’m not going to pretend and say it’s been easy to be so broke especially with the holidays here, but we have more than enough and in the end, it truly is being together that counts the most, not the material things. We are blessed that we don’t have needs, just wants. There are many who truly need.

Updated to add Amazon Wishlist…http://a.co/el2mc7W

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Someone thinks I’m Smart

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I think one of my most controversial ongoing decisions on this blog is my commitment to homeschooling.  Now I will admit this summer has been a doozy for me emotionally, and the thought of just sending all the kids off on buses for 8 or so hours a day has been appealing at times.  Of course, then I think about all the calls from teachers I would get because of certain behaviors or disorganization or…and the hours of homework each night and so on.  So it’s been pretty easy to squash that thought even in my most miserable times.

And then today I saw this article posted online and I was so grateful for the logical and statistical reasoning for homeschooling…Homeschooling is the smartest way to teach kids in the 21st century

My way is the smartest way!  For  once! And maybe not to all.  But right now, I’ll take that win.

We are actually starting school this week.  I’m super excited about it.  We are not returning to our co op, and the classes I had planned to teach for money, well, that didn’t happen either.  So the money stress is off. I bought some new curriculum in June at our state’s homeschool convention, have dug through some of my older stuff.  If they were in public school, I would have a 6th, 7th, 11th and 12th grader, but in reality I have a 5th grader who is in high school science, a 8th grader in high school English and math, a 12th grader who just has to take a limited number of classes at a time, and a college level student who just needs to catch up in math.

I love that homeschooling lets me really cater their learning styles, bolstering their weaknesses and really let them fly in their strengths.  I know not every agrees with this choice and the limitations it has put on my job search at times, but I know it’s the right choice for my kids.

On the job front though, as I am truly looking and applying for most anything, I decided to eliminate my homeschool conditions for employment.  I know I can homeschool at night or weekends…or even longer lunches if that is an option.  And with the right money, I could afford to hire some help to at least keep the kids on track.

Just ending with “Homeschooling is the ‘Smartest Way'”…sometimes it’s just nice to hear that.


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