:::: MENU ::::
Browsing posts in: Monthly Spending

Talking to Friends About Money

by

Today I wanted to talk about something a little taboo (I guess we’ll just keep with the theme, since today’s mid-day post was a bit taboo, also).

Do you ever talk with your friends about money? Not just casual mentions of money, but deeper conversations about budgeting, debt payments, financial goals, etc?

Confession: when I first started blogging here I hadn’t ever talked about money (on a deeper level) with any of my friends, ever! It made for a challenging transition from my old spending habits to my newer (more frugal) ones.

Eventually I slowly started talking a little bit about how I’ve been working to pay down our debts. One of my friends, in particular, has been really kind about my debt reduction mission. She still doesn’t know specifics (exact figures of debt versus monthly payments, etc. etc.), but she knows that I’ve become much more money-conscious (side note: she’s actually made innocent comments occasionally about how “tight” money is right now in our household. LOL! If she only knew the truth = that we spend $2,000/month on DEBT!!!).

This friend and I used to get together nearly once a week for lunch or a happy hour and, instead, we now get together to do a little 3-mile walk/jog on a popular jogging trail here in Tucson. I love it because I’m able to get some exercise and some girl talk all at once, and to do so for 100% free!

But still….no one knows the extent of our debt situation, nor the sacrifices we’ve made to really try to chip away at our debt.

I have a different friend that I was chatting with the other day. She and her husband were preparing their taxes and realized that last year they’d had a dramatic income boost – 33% over the previous year. The scary part is that she said she has absolutely NO IDEA where the money has gone. They still have the same living arrangements (same modest apartment, same old car, no new baby, same basic “stuff”), so it’s not like their expenses have gone up. Just…the money has disappeared.

To be totally fair, she recognized that her spending has gotten a little “willy-nilly” lately (e.g., extra Starbucks runs, more dining out), and my friend is one of the most generous people ever so she spent a TON at Christmas (I don’t want to give her financial specifics, but when she told me the amount she’d spent on family I was SHOCKED!) I’m sure she’s equally as generous throughout the year with other occasions (birthdays, showers, etc.)

So after hearing all this, where does the conversation go from there? I know my friend has some debt (student loans at a minimum, though I don’t know specifics about other consumer-related debts), and I want her to win with money! I wanted to tell her all about what I’ve been doing, to encourage her to examine her spending, make a budget, try to cut back, etc. etc. etc. Only…I didn’t feel comfortable to do so completely unsolicited.

I did mention that I’d been working really hard this last year to pay off debts by really trying to stick to a budget (hoping this would open the door for more questions), but the conversation just kind of ended there. She picked up with a different topic.

So what would you do? Do you talk to friends about money? Would you ever do so unsolicited, or simply wait to be asked? It feels like a weird topic (kind of like trying to push your religion on a friend), but I’ve just felt so thrilled with my progress this past year and I really WANT my friend to do well financially, too! Especially with their big income boost, they deserve some financial wins, you know? But it’s definitely still so taboo.

How do you feel about the topic?
Would you talk to your friend(s) about money? Would you try to encourage them to get on a budget, or just let them see how you live your life (with the hopes that one day they ask about your success)?


Budgeting Decisions

by

Well, folks, the jury was out for awhile but the verdict is finally in. The month of February was a bit rough for our income. Like….ouch.

Hubs and I have a variable income, but in the (almost) year I’ve been blogging our income has ranged from about $5,500/month on the low end, up to over $10,000 on the high end. In general it has averaged around $6,500-$7,00ish/month.

So February officially marks the worst income month we’ve had to date since we began blogging (not in life, in general, but since we’ve started this debt reduction mission). Combined, we didn’t even crack the $5,000-threshold. In fact we were closer to only $4,500.

Yuuuuup.

This also marks the first month in a long time that I’ve actually brought home more than hubs (which makes no difference with our budget since funds are combined, but makes me sad given I only work part-time and he puts in long, physically grueling hours daily. Just feels unfair somehow that he didn’t make more).

Why?

If you’re a long-time reader then it’s for several of the same reasons I’ve discussed before when we’ve had lower-than-average income months. The main thing this time around is that his payroll was super high (he hired a new crew – yay!!!), so he’s been paying out a lot of funds for work that’s been completed, but he hasn’t been able to actually close out the jobs yet (and get PAID on his & his crew’s work) for a few high-dollar jobs due to various reasons (it’s boring, really, but if you’re curious this happens occassionally in flooring….things like they’re missing some transitions that have to be ordered, or there wasn’t enough material and it’s coming from across the country – oh wait – the order can’t come in due to inclement weather in the NorthEast, etc. etc. etc.).

We’re working on some of his business financials to try to change things up so stuff like this won’t happen in the future. In the past, the way hubs’ has run his business is that he’s kept a couple-thousand dollar buffer in his business account, but then anything over his costs for the week, he gives to me as income. But as his business is growing, we’re seeing that a couple thousand dollars is not really enough of a buffer. I’d like to see his buffer grow a little higher (so he can easily cover the expense of materials and labor when needed, even when waiting on his paychecks), and get to a point where hubs is drawing a regular income every month. Any money his business earns above his income would either sit in his business account (adding to the buffer), or he can pay himself a quarterly bonus or something similar. The point is, I’d like to move toward a more regular, steady income that doesn’t fluctuate based on miscellaneous business finances.

The good news is that hopefully March will be a really good income month, what with all his regularly-scheduled jobs PLUS the jobs from February that he’ll finally be getting paid on. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, you might recall that we live on last month’s income. This means that although February was the low-income month….we really weren’t affected until this month (March). Remember me talking here about how I was scrimping and saving every last dollar to try to make one final $100 (extra) payment toward my student loans at the end of last month? Well, I did manage to save the money! I ended up with about $125 leftover. On Saturday (February 28th), I logged into my student loan account. I was going to make the extra payment but just kept going back and forth between my student loan account and the month’s budget. Seeing how, realistically, I’m going to be unable to make some of my goals that I’d hoped for this month (like finally paying off the license fees), I decided to just let the money sit in my account. I’m going to add it to the income we have in March because, otherwise, there’s just not enough to go around.

I’ve had to make some tough budgeting decisions this month. I’ve had to cut nearly all of our savings and reduce our planned debt payments. Things are going to be tight; particularly since I’ll be traveling toward the end of the month (going for my “not an interview” campus visit), which will cause hubs to have to stay home from work for a couple days (to watch the girls), and I’m sure there will be some eating-out involved.

I was debating whether to withdraw some money from our 3-6 month savings account to use for the month (at least to boost our debt payments), but have decided against it for the time being. This isn’t an emergency and I think that having a little bit lower income this month can serve as a bit of a character-building experience. We’ve taken our income for granted for awhile now. We’ve been lucky to have plenty to go around for all of our basic living expenses + good-sized debt payments. Having a month where we really need to scrimp and save and cut-back on excess will remind us of how far we’ve come and WHY we’re so committed to getting out of debt.

So, just a heads up that this month isn’t going to have as high of debt-payments as I would like (and I’m unlikely to be able to pay off those pesky license fees in full). But hopefully we’ll be able to cut back in all of my budget categories to try to minimize the blow to our debt payments, and with any luck we’ll learn a thing or two about getting back to the basics this month.


Tough Decisions

by

Hi friends!

I think you all know by now that I really do take into consideration your thoughts and opinions about all things financially related to my spending, budget, savings, etc. If you ever doubted it, just refer to my recent plan of action post where I have changed up my debt attack plan of action, in part, to accommodate many of the suggestions I have received from readers.

But right now I have a different sort of decision to talk about – one related not to my debt, but to savings. And although I know that many of you will probably disagree with my plans, this is not a decision I intend to change. It just is what it is on this one.

But to put things in perspective a bit, before I tell you about my new savings plan, I just want to say that I’ve really thought long and hard about this before coming to the final decision. It was a tough call for me, but one that I am happy about. And its not permanent, but will directly impact my budget for the next year. Here goes….

You may or may not recall that hubs and I will celebrate our 5 year anniversary this year (November 2015). I’ve mentioned in the past that I really, really wanted to do something super special for our fifth wedding anniversary. My sights were set on Hawaii!!!!

Welllllll, that’s not happening. But only because its been superseded by a different vacation plan.

My sweet mother’s birthday was last weekend. Her 59th. And I wasn’t there to celebrate with her. We facetimed so she could see the babies and we sent a small gift, a photo album which I know she will cherish. My family is very important to me, but my Mom holds a special place in my heart. She’s truly one of my best friends (as cliché as that sounds).

And, keeping with the cliché, my Mom does everything for everyone. I don’t want to divulge too many of her personal details here, but she cares (physically and financially) for my aging grandmother, she cares (physically and even to some extent financially) for my siblings and myself (no, she doesn’t give me money, but she does ease our financial load by sending tons of clothes for the girls’ birthday and for Christmas, she helps provide gas money when we visit her, she provides meals and childcare when we’re in town, etc. etc. etc.) With all of this caring for everyone else, she doesn’t do nearly enough to care for herself. She still works full time with no imminent retirement in sight. She’s had a dream to go on an Alaskan cruise for years, but instead spends her money on others. Always on others. Never on herself.

So my sister and I have planned a surprise for next year’s birthday.

In February 2016, we will be taking a Mom’s 60th Birthday/Family Cruise!

I wish we could swing an Alaskan cruise, since that’s been her dream, but the price and distance sets it outside of the realm of possibility for us.

However, my sister and I have been scouring the internet for the past two months and have decided on a cruise sailing from Galveston (one of the closest ports for my central Texas family). After doing a lot of talking, strategizing, and planning, hubs and I have decided to make this a priority for us. But only on one condition: DEBT FREE VACATION!!!

We are planning to cruise in February 2016 (the month of my Mom’s 60th birthday). To ensure that we can do so debt-free, we’re going to plan to save $400/month just for this cruise.

Now, that’s a LOT of money. I know. It’s a lot of money that could do a lot of good elsewhere. It could help me get out of debt by an extra $400/month! Or it could go toward a Roth IRA, our 3-6 month savings account, or any number of worthy causes.

But, having made this a priority, it will be entered into our monthly budget starting THIS MONTH (yep, I’ve already set aside our $400 savings for the month of February). To feel “okay” about doing this, some changes have been made in other areas of our budget. One thing, for instance, is that I’ve decreased our savings to other areas. I’m going to take things month-by-month (since we have an irregular income, this is the only thing that makes sense). But, for now, I’m holding off on savings in many of the different savings categories that we have created (girls’ birthday, travel/Christmas, pet expenses, 3-6 month savings). We’ll still be saving monthly toward a car repair fund, dental/vision fund, and annual fees fund because these are all regular expenses that we know we’ll incur. The other categories, however, really aren’t needed. We’ll forego a big birthday party for the girls this year (they won’t know the difference…they’ll only be 3), we’ll hope the dog doesn’t get sick (and, if he does, we still have our existing emergency fund), etc. Basically, I can’t in good conscience save toward ALL of these places every month, so I had to make some tough decisions.

And, of course, saving $400/month toward Family Cruise 2016 may require a somewhat smaller debt payment than otherwise. But it is what it is.

And, to be fair, I kind of warned you all this would be coming (Note – when I wrote the post about balance and slowing down, we did NOT have plans yet for this cruise. But my point is that I’ve kind of known in the back of my mind that a slowdown was inevitable at some point. We’ve now come to that point). To be clear, I’m still 100% invested in getting rid of my debt. That’s why I’ve tried to offset this $400/month savings in other areas so I wouldn’t have to impact our debt payments as much. But I want to be honest with everyone about what’s going on.

I think this could present an interesting story too….

In my original balance post (seriously, give it a read if you haven’t yet. It really explains my mind-set on the matter pretty well), there seemed to be many readers who were interested in a more balanced debt-payoff schedule. And I think it’s still a fabulous goal: cash-flowing a vacation planned for 2 years deep into debt-reduction mode. By that point we should be down to only paying off student loans, anyway. So, no worries. I’m keeping my momentum up. But this will be a new, fun road to travel too.

Can I get a hooray for an all cash *real* vacation?!? (I say “real” because we’ve gone on trips to visit family, but it doesn’t feel the same as a “real” vacation!)

Did you take any vacations during your debt-reduction mission? Did you feel that it helped (by giving a nice mid-debt-reduction reward for your hard work) or hurt (by taking funds that otherwise would’ve gone toward debt)??? Anyone with personal experiences in this domain? I’d love to hear how it all worked out!


Is Using Credit Immoral???

by

Happy Valentine’s Day (or Singles Awareness Day, if you prefer)! : )

Here’s a fun little philosophical question for you….is using credit immoral?

Let me back up and explain the question a bit.

I’ve had credit cards my entire adult life (even though I didn’t get into debt until much later, my first credit card was at age 18 so I could “learn to use it properly”. See my debt story here).

Even when I paid off my last credit card back in June 2014, I never cut them up and closed the accounts as Dave Ramsey would suggest. Instead, I put most of them in our household safe. I still carry 2 with me all the time. One of them (my Target card) I use anytime I shop at Target so I can receive 5% off, plus I use it for online gift purchases for friends’ weddings/baby showers/etc since I save 5% AND get free shipping (I wrote more about how I use this method to give gifts for cheaper here). My other card (a Wells Fargo card) has the best reward program, so I use it for all big-ticket purchases (e.g., preschool tuition it automatically charged to the card monthly). I carefully track these expenses (and still use my debit card for day-to-day spending) and pay the balances in full each month. I haven’t paid interest a single time because I’m really vigilant about paying on time and I’ve never had any issues. Plus, I receive perks from these cards (a discount at Target, and the Wells Fargo card lets me use points to pay bills, receive cash, or get stuff free – I used it at Christmas to get the girls a really cool toy totally free).

I never saw anything wrong with any of this. This is the way to use credit, right? Make it work for you so you have some benefit, then pay it in full every month. I thought this was responsible credit usage.

Then I was listening to an old podcast from the Dave Ramsey show and someone asked him this very question:

Is it “okay” to still use credit cards as long as they’re being paid in full every month?

And Dave Ramsey’s answer surprised me a bit. OF COURSE he says no (he’s the “absolutely no debt/no credit” guy). Part of his reasoning is that studies have shown people tend to spend more when they buy with plastic  (this part doesn’t bother me – same thing could be said for debit, not credit); another reason he gave is that people can fall into a trap of forgetting to pay on time and winding up paying interest (fair, but this hasn’t ever been an issue for me); and the final reason is what caught me off guard. He said that if you use your credit card to buy things and pay it in full every month, you are essentially ripping off the credit card companies. That is not how credit card companies intended for their cards to be used, and Ramsey basically likened it to taking money out of someone else’s pocket. Like it’s cheating the credit card companies. In other words….its immoral.

I had never thought of it that way before and it definitely struck me. I tend not to sympathize with giant credit card companies (especially as they are making money hand-over-fist off others and I’ve MORE than paid for all my “free perks” in the interest I’ve paid them over the past 8 years when I still had credit card debt). But still, it got me thinking.

What do you guys think? Is it immoral or in some way wrong or cheating the system to use credit cards if you pay them in full every month? What do you think is fair and honest for credit card usage?


Weekly Update #4- Orlando Trip

by

Hey everybody!

I’m back from my visit with my sister and my nephew. I couldn’t be more stoked that I went. An amazing trip. I got to Orlando on Wednesday night/ Thursday morning at 12:30AM (just barely, though. I made my connecting flight by the skin of my teeth. 2 minutes later and they would have taken off without me.) Since my sis and her fiance are both Cast Members at Walt Disney World, we spent all of Thursday at Magic Kingdom with the baby. Friday was spent hanging out with my sister and other family that was visiting, while her fiance worked. Saturday was spent at Epcot and Animal Kingdom and I left very early Sunday morning.

Here’s a picture of me and baby on my favorite ride, Living with the Land, in Epcot:

Disney Pic

 

He was so amazing and seemed to love the rides we took him on (if sleeping on them means loving them, lol). The only ride he didn’t like was Haunted Mansion, which he just screamed and screamed and screamed on.

OK, so for the financial aspect of my journey, I had budgeted $200.00 (above the $70 I normally carry in cash) for the trip, but it ended up tallying $280.00, give or take. I took it all in cash and had too much change left over to count, I just threw it all in my change jar. I would have been pretty close if I had accounted for the $25 in baggage fees each way for my checked bag. Oh well, I’ll know better next time. The remaining $230.00 was spent mainly on food. I bought dinner on Wednesday (McDonald’s) when I arrived, snacks throughout Magic Kingdom on Thursday, dinner at Sweet Tomatoes Thursday night, dinner at Downtown Disney on Friday night and snacks throughout the day on Saturday. Given the fact we ate so much in Disney, the damage could have been much worse, but my sis gets a pretty nice Cast Member discount that could be used at each stop.

So, here’s what my budget looks like for February:

Weekly Update #4

I have yet to return the juicer (ugh), but I’ve vowed to do that sometime this week, hopefully as early as tonight. But thankfully, even though I spent a majority of week in Florida, I was still able to pay $497.85 on my student loans, which brings the tallies to:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid Off
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$24,462.48$3,374.76
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$19,189.15$3,007.87
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$655.99$20,036.11
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$7,723.61$2,226.57
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$5,356.99$739.04
Sallie Mae 06 & 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$57,338.22$53,249.44

My current slush fund balance didn’t change from the previous post:

Slush Fund= $2,577.57

For the following week, with V-day (Saturday) and my birthday (Sunday) coming up we have some plans for the weekend, but nothing that will cost a significant amount. I have some money budgeted and a pretty good plan for my V-day gift, but I can’t reveal how much and what I’m buying until next week (my GF reads this too, lol). How is everyone else going to spend their Valentine’s Day? Do you treat it like a holiday to celebrate your spouse, or do you see it as a “Hallmark Holiday”? Let me know in the comments! I know couples that do both. Some see it as a nice day to enjoy time together, and others just see it as another day.


January Budget Update

by

Last month I fell off the frugal train pretty hard. A tiny portion of the spending was, in my opinion, for the best (e.g., it cost a couple hundred bucks to have our wills/power of attorney drafted and notarized). But overwhelmingly, the spending was really not a necessity, but a luxury. For instance, I bought family season passes to the zoo. To be absolutely fair, I’ve been thinking about and wanting to buy season passes to the zoo for nearly a year but the price has held me back. For whatever reason, I threw caution to the wind this month and, without even having saved up in advance, threw the cash down and bought us some passes. I will certainly make good use of them and I’m happy to have them (already gone twice with plans to go tomorrow, too!), but I do think the purchase was a bit frivolous and could have been better planned by saving up instead of just spending. This has made me re-think how I will budget.

Remember how I mentioned last month that I was just going to have a “buffer” of money that I’d allocate throughout the month (this was instead of having a “miscellaneous” budget)? Wellll, I don’t think that idea worked out too well. I pretty much spent the money real quick as if it was “fun” money, and then spent the last half of the month wondering where all of our money went! Lesson learned!

In addition to this expense, I spent nearly 50% over our grocery budget for the month. Want to know the super scary part??? I honestly have NO IDEA what I got to show for it!!! I didn’t stock up on anything, our freezer is nearly empty, and I seriously don’t know where all this money went! It’s like it was just flying out the window!

I do know that I made 2 trips to Costco during month (which always costs more than I’d like so I try to limit trips to once per month), but realistically this does not account for the full overage! The thing about my grocery shopping techniques is that I like to try to meal plan and make one grocery run per week (so I only buy what we need, keep costs low, etc.). But I made SOOOOO MANY grocery trips last month! Most of the trips were below $50, but it adds up if you go 4-5 times per week!!! Here’s what some of my entries looked like for the month:

  • Fry’s Grocery $39
  • Sprouts $19
  • Safeway $9
  • Frys $132
  • Sprouts $17
  • Sprouts $12
  • Fry’s $6
  • Albertsons $6
  • Sprouts $25
  • Costco $125
  • And so forth…..You get the point.

Sooooo many trips! So even though the majority are pretty low-dollar purchases, they add up quickly!

The good news is that writing here provides me with a big wake up call and slap in the face! It’s impossible to blog about your shopping habits and monthly spending without INSTANTLY realizing when there’s a HUGE, GLARING problem in your face!

Last month we experienced the problem. This month we will work on fixing it (and we’re already on track, with grocery spending well below budget so far and a new budget software to help me track my expenses!)

So without further adieu, here’s how last month shaped up:

January’s Expenses

Item Amount Spent
Rent 1055
Electricity 158
Water 53
Natural gas 18
Sprint (2 lines) 114
Cable/Internet 99
Car Insurance 49
Health Insurance 394
Trash 35
Preschool 1149
Gift-Giving 17
Wills & Power of Attorneys 211
Personal Maintenance 25
Restaurants 112
Entertainment 96
Groceries 572
Gasoline 47
Clothing 35
Parking 9
Toddler Pull Ups/Wipes 131
Postage 9
Debt 1784
Savings 385
Total Spent 6557

 

Let’s talk about some of these categories….

 

Gift-Giving ($17)

The gift-giving was a $14 wedding gift (remember my trick to spend super low on gifts, but still get something the recipient would want/use?), and $3 for cards from Dollar Tree. I sent one card to the wedding couple, one card to a friend expecting a baby (I also sent one of my old books from when I was a child, along with a sweet personal message to the baby about how much the book meant to me and I hope it means as much to her one day, blah blah, super sentimental stuff but also super cheap), and kept one card for this month.

 

Personal Maintenance ($25)

I usually spend nearly nothing on personal maintenance, but not so much this month. I went to one yoga class ($10) and got my eyebrows waxed ($15 for wax + tip).

 

Restaurants ($112)

 Generally we budget $100 for restaurant-eating (this is usually two “real” restaurant trips per month OR some combination of one restaurant meal and 2-3 cheaper options like Jason’s Deli or fast food, or no restaurant meals and all cheaper options, etc.). We went over this month by $12.

 

Entertainment ($96)

 Here’s where things really get painful! I bought season passes to our zoo ($70 for the family season pass), $21 on drinks with a friend (I put this here rather than “restaurants” because it was really just hanging out at a bar, as I had a friend come to town that moved away 2 years ago) and $5 on a Kindle book that was a total splurge purchase. I always, always use the library for books but there was a flash deal on this book (typically a $20 book) and before I knew it I was typing in my password to purchase. So, yeah. Total failure on this category for last month.

 

Groceries ($572)

Aaaaahhhhhh! How on earth could I spend $572 on groceries (normal budget = $400) without even knowing what I got, having nothing extra, nothing stocked up, etc??? Failure on this, too!

 

Savings ($385)

  • 3-6 months expenses $25
  • Travel/Christmas $25
  • Dental/Vision $125
  • Semi-Annual Expenses $100
  • Toddler Birthday $10
  • Savings for Roth IRA $100

Note, I typically also save $200/month for my car repair fund, too, but had to forego it this month so that I could use that money toward some of the other overages, discussed above.

 

Debt ($1784)

  • Car payment $1000
  • Student loan payment $453
  • License fees $256
  • Medical bills $75

Note, I had initially budgeted for an additional $100 to go toward my student loans (to keep the interest from accumulating), but also had to divert that money toward other overages, discussed above.

 

Final Thoughts

There’s not a lot more to say on the matter. I know I messed up last month. Fun fact: when I type up my budget update, I use an old template (happens to be from the month of October), so I was able to see that during that month we were working with less income, and yet made a larger debt payment than in January. Blah!

So there you have it. I’m sure many must be disappointed by my spending this past month, but I am merely mortal. I really think this was my first month that presented a major stumbling block in terms of spending (you may disagree, but that’s my opinion; we’ve had other overages, but typically for dental work or car repairs or things that weren’t merely frivolous spending). I realize what’s happened, have taken steps to change my actions, and think that this can serve as a learning opportunity for me. If you aren’t careful with budgeting your income, it really does just disappear into thin air. You HAVE to be vigilant, or else it will be gone! Lesson learned.

 

What’s your biggest budget-buster? Where are you most likely to overspend?


Cheap Valentine’s Craft For Kids

by

There’s less than a week until Valentine’s Day! But it’s not too late to make your own Valentine to send out to friends and family! I recently did a fun Valentine’s Day craft with our girls that I wanted to share here. The cost was $0 out of pocket since I already had all of the supplies on hand. This is a great craft project for young kids (mine are 2.5 years, but this could work for older kids too). If you need a craft for even younger kids, check out the one I did for Mother’s Day last year (or, just for fun, see last year’s Easter craft here).

Step 1:  Let them paint!

IMG_0542

Ha! That face cracks me up!

My girls got this super fancy-pants art easel for Christmas from their Grandma. So step one was to let them paint! Note, you definitely do not need a fancy art easel to accomplish this goal (see last year’s Easter craft where the girls simply painted at their little pink table). Before moving on to step 2, you need to let the paint fully dry. I did the craft right before naps, so the paintings were dry by the time they woke up. That worked well (though you could also make this into a multi-day event, doing the painting in the evening and moving on to step 2 the following day).

Step 2:  Tear up the art!

I got the girls involved and, I swear, this was probably their favorite part of the entire process! We tore up the paintings into a million little pieces, like so…

IMG_0579

Step 3:  Prepare the Cards

I prepared my card while the girls were playing with the tiny scraps of paper, but in hindsight it may have been easier to do this part while the girls were napping. I just took 2 sheets of paper (a solid pink sheet and a purple patterned sheet). First, I cut the pink sheets down to size to fit into our envelopes (I have 5.75″ x 8.75″ envelopes, so they’re larger than normal letter-sized envelopes). To do so, I simply folded the pink sheet in half (like a hamburger, not a hot dog) and cut along the seam. Then I folded in half again to cut out a heart. Then I glued the pink sheet (with the heart-shaped hole now cut out) onto the purple patterned paper. I didn’t take pictures of this part, but my thinking in having the patterned paper in back is that (1) I wanted to have a full, solid sheet on the back so I could write a little note, and (2) the pretty pattern was nice to have so that if there were any gaps in the project there would still be a pretty background.

Step 4: Glue on the art scraps

During this phase I helped the girls work with glue sticks to glue scraps of paper onto the heart. To be totally honest, they’re still probably a little young for this type of craft. They did a great job with gluing onto the center of the heart, but I ended up helping to round out the heart edges with additional paper scraps and they lost interest after about 2 hearts (we had 7 to do in total), so…yeah. Some of them were just done by yours truly. After the papers were glued and dried, I wrote the message on each of the valentines:  “Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you to pieces!” Then I wrote a longer, more personal message on the back of each Valentine.

IMG_0595

And that’s it! So simple and easy!

I also took pictures of the girls at each phase of the project (painting, tearing the art, and gluing), so I’m going to include a couple of photos along with each valentine to give it a personal touch and let each recipient know that these were personally hand-made with love by our little girls.

I started doing these types of kid-crafts in lieu of sending actual gifts to people about a year ago (right around the time I started blogging), and it has made such a difference! Not only does it cost less than sending “real” gifts (this project, for example, will only cost postage and 10 cents/picture…I haven’t printed pics yet, but probably $3-4 total for 7 gifts), BUT I also find that the recipients enjoy them so much more! I was floored when I went to my Grandma-in-law’s house around Christmas time this year to find that she had actually FRAMED our valentine’s craft from last year. That was before I started blogging, so sorry I don’t have a link but here’s a picture of the finished product (not the framed one).

IMG_2082

See a theme here? I do a lot of paint-related craft projects that I then cut up and fit into different shapes, assembling them nicely.

Seeing the craft framed so nicely on my grandma-in-law’s wall, it really looked like true art and not just a silly craft project made by a 2-year-old. Plus, it really made me realize just how much the art project was appreciated. If I’d sent an actual gift, it would have long since been forgotten, thrown out, or consumed (assuming I sent chocolate or something edible). But even though I know the fate of these art projects is eventually the trash (letsbereal), I think people really appreciate the thought and sentiment of a homemade gift.

So there you have it! If you have kids and haven’t come up with anything to send to relatives yet, why not do a fun little craft like this??? It’s good for young kids (practice manual dexterity, expressiveness, foster different talents and skills), but it’s good for the recipients as well. : )

Do you have any Valentine’s Day plans? Do you usually send Valentine’s gifts to anyone?


Pages:12345678...19