Browsing posts in: Kids & Money

Valentine’s Day Kid’s Craft

by

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!

IMG_5076

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

by

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

by

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

by

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

Save

Save


Someone thinks I’m Smart

by

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.


House Hunting….kinda

by

Hi from sunny (and HOT) Madison, Wisconsin!!!

I’m here for my work conference and, unfortunately, brought the Tucson heat with me! Just last week the average temperatures were in the mid-80s. I arrived on Tuesday of this week and since I’ve been here it’s been in the high-90s/flirting with 100 degrees F plus muggy. Boo!!! Get it together, Madison! (I kid, I kid – it’s actually quite gorgeous aside from the heat + humidity).

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. The REAL point of this post is about HOUSE HUNTING!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!! The time has finally arrived. It’s FINALLY arrived!!!!

Hubs and I had originally planned to start house hunting in early summer but had to push back the start of house-hunting a bit to finish adding to our house down payment fund. As a reminder, we’re planning to put down 20% so we can avoid any mortgage insurance. To do so, we wanted to save up $10,000 during the first half of this year (one of our 2016 goals, now done – yay!!!); we’ll add to that all the money from my money market account (roughly another $10,000…a little more at this point); and, finally, my mom is gifting us a sum of money that I haven’t disclosed.

We decided to start by shopping mortgage lenders. We’ve hired a realtor and got her recommendation, plus called around to all the local credit unions to ask about mortgage current rates (though none of them keep the loans in-house, they can still offer better deals than most big banks). Note, we haven’t actually hired a lender yet or processed any paperwork. At this point, we’ve just begun the process of shopping different lenders. We’re not letting anyone run our credit, etc., until we’ve decided on a lender, so we’re just comparing generalities (by giving our credit, an estimated loan amount, etc.)

I’m pretty sure we’ve found who we’re going to go with, but I’m still waiting to get my contract for the 2016-2017 academic year so we won’t actually start the paperwork process until I have that in hand to prove my continued income, etc.

Once that occurs, the hunt is ON!!! We’ve already been zeroing in on a couple of neighborhoods/areas that we like and I’m dying to actually get in some houses and look around. Can’t wait!!!

In other news – remember how I mentioned having a friend who lives in Madison (it was one of the reasons I was excited about coming here for my conference)? Well, I totally called it because she had her baby literally in the early morning hours on the day I arrived in town. I’m glad many of you advised me to really make the trip more about WORK than about socialization. I’ve been here 2 full days and have yet to see her. I was going to swing by her house this evening after the conference, but she had just gotten home from the hospital, is nursing a 3rd degree tear (in addition to her infant, har har), and just didn’t feel very well. No hurt feelings – I 100% understand. I should be able to go by tomorrow after the conference. Even if it’s just dropping off dinner and a baby gift, I’ll at least be able to say hi and meet the new baby for a couple minutes. I’m sure other parents can relate to the overwhelming craze that surrounds the first couple of days home from the hospital with one’s first child!!! Just sucks that the timing of the conference worked out like it did because I would’ve loved to spend more time together and take advantage of my kids-free nights! ; )

That being said, I’ve been ultra productive while I’ve been here. In between conference sessions I’ve done tons of grading. In the evenings I’ve been making lessons for my Fall classes, updating syllabi and course calendars, and getting final grades up from my summer classes (ahem, and writing this blog post). I still feel way behind (I think that’s my new normal, which is uncomfortable for someone who is always totally on top of their work), but I’m still treading water and doing better than I have most of the summer so it’s all good.

And, why don’t I just continue (since this post is total stream-of-consciousness at this point anyway. Let’s just go on with it, lol)…. my girls’ first day of preschool was today!!!! It still breaks my heart a little that I wasn’t there, but it’s helped that hubs sent lots of fun pictures of the girls all ready to go and full of smiles in their new classroom. I’m not going to lie though, it hurt when I FaceTimed with them this evening and they asked, “Why didn’t you get us from school, Mom?!” (tear). I’ll be home Friday afternoon in time to pick them up, so that will have to suffice. The GREAT news about the girls starting back to school is that it means I can go back to working full-time (thank god, given that I have both a full-time AND a part-time job. Whew! How have I done it all summer with only part-time care?!). When I return I have exactly 1 week before the Fall semester starts and it is literally jam-packed just about every minute of every day with meetings, To Do’s, workshops, etc. It’s insanity! I’m so very thankful to get some solid dedicated work-time in both this week (at least in the evenings after the conference) and next week (while the kids are in school – YAY!)

Sorry it’s been a hot minute since my last post! I’ll try to be better about it but, you know, life.

What’s one good thing happening in your world right now? When do kids go back to school in your area? Any must-do thing in Madison before I leave? I don’t have much time but could maybe squeeze in a restaurant or something???


Summer Childcare Update

by

Hi guys! I hope your Monday is off to a good start!

Remember when I talked about our summer childcare plans? We ended up opting to hire a babysitter whose been coming to our house to watch the kids 3 days per week. I wanted to give a little update on how it’s gone.

First, in case you hadn’t noticed from our recent budget update, our childcare costs have been way down compared to the academic year! Part of this is because we’ve been out of town a bit and we only pay our babysitter when we need her, so we haven’t had to pay for chunks of time when we’ve been gone. The other reason, of course, is because we’ve only been using part-time care instead of full-time care. Overall, we’re paying more per hour, but less overall (since fewer hours, etc.)

I did have some concerns about the route we decided to go. First, I didn’t love that the kids were going to be stuck at home all day every day. Second, our babysitter doesn’t drive (she’s old enough, but just doesn’t have a license) and she lives a solid 45 minutes away, so arranging pick-ups and drop-offs has been really exhausting. Generally we meet her parents somewhere in the middle, but on the rare occasion we have to take her all the way home, we’re talking a solid 1.5 hours in the car for the round-trip. Far from ideal. And, finally, the time has been another big issue. Remember, I work a full-time job + a part-time job. So getting all my work done in 3 days/week (and nights while the kids are sleeping) was a big concern of mine.

Status Update…

I don’t regret our decision with the babysitter for this summer, but I don’t think we’ll do it again next year (or, if we do, we’ll probably do a mix of camps and babysitter). Most of the summer has been fine, but now that we’re nearing the start of the semester (5 weeks left!) I’ve been struggling with tension/stress headaches just about every day over the stress and anxiety of all that I’ve got to get done in such a short period of time. The struggle stress is real.

Also, I miss working at home badly! During the academic year I try to reserve one day per week to work at home. I tried to work from home with the babysitter exactly once and it was just not working. The kids are loud and make concentration difficult. Plus, when I’m home (even if I’m locked in my bedroom), they keep trying to come in and see what I’m doing, bang on the door, yell for me, etc. I also found myself coming out and helping a lot when I heard screaming/crying/fighting. Basically, I was not able to get much done. But we live a good 30-40 minutes from campus so when I physically go IN to work it’s a solid hour round-trip out of the day just for driving. Its a fast drive and doesn’t bother me during the academic year, but paying more per hour makes me realize the cost of that drive on a daily basis. And I’m just able to be more efficient when I’m home! I can start a load of laundry and meal-prep for dinner in-between emails and work stuff. It’s much harder to cram all that stuff into the nighttime hours (or on the babysitter’s off days while the kiddos are home with me).

Hubs has been stepping up, too. He’s stayed home a few days when I’ve had a meeting or something else that I’ve had to get to. But even so, I find that I’m rushing home to try to relieve him or whatever and I’m just not being as productive as I need to be.

This week, only, their school has a week-long camp. I signed them up but it’s only Mon-Fri from 8:30-12:00pm. The plan is to work from home this week (to eliminate the long drive to campus). When I pick them up, we’ll come home and eat lunch, then I lay them down for naps and (fingers crossed) get another couple hours of work done in the afternoon.

I was SO THRILLED to be taking them to camp this week! Like, I CANNOT WAIT for their school to open back up in Fall! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved having more time with them over the past couple months. But I’m sure other parents can relate to the feeling of being OVER summer (especially when its 10 million degrees, options for activities are limited, and I need to freaking WORK!). Here’s a picture I took (while at a stoplight – not moving!) of me taking the girls to camp this morning. To say I was excited is the understatement of the century, lol

IMG_3190

 

Oh, oh, oh!!!!

Also, we officially got my Dad’s Utah house on the market! It went live in the MLS on Thursday night. It’s had 7 showings since then and we got our first offer late last night. It was an over-list-price offer, but it’s not great because the couple is still “shopping lenders.” We don’t want to accept and tie the house up by going under-contract until we know for sure that the people’s financing will go through.

Our realtor is reaching out to the realtors of the other people who’ve looked at the house to get feedback and let them know there’s an offer on the table (in case others were on the verge and decide to put in an offer, too). We have until tomorrow afternoon to respond to the first offer so hopefully we can drum up a bidding war (though, being cautious of the fact that we don’t want to go too far above list price, as the appraisal might come in lower and ruin financing for anyone offering over-list). We’ll see what happens. Lots of moving parts. None of us siblings have sold real estate before (my bro & sis both own, but they’ve only bought once and have never sold), so it’s all new to us. Luckily, my mom is a real estate broker and although she and my father are divorced, she’s very sensitive to his health issues and has been more than willing to help navigate and guide us (the kids) through the process to make sure we’re taken care of and doing things properly. Our realtor has also been a dream to work with, so I feel lucky in that regard.

Anyway, gotta run and get some work done in the short time I have before I go back to pick up the girls from camp!

Have a great week! I’ll be back soon!


Pages:1234567...27