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No Spend Month – Wrap Up

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So if you will remember, due to my job lay off and being on the edge financially I committed to No Spend November. I have to admit, it has been a very pleasant month.  I did ALOT of cooking and really enjoyed every morning getting up and searching through my cookbooks to find new recipes to try out.  In fact today, I have a hearty vegetable soup going in the crockpot which will be perfect for this cold winter night!

But on the spending side…

We did GREAT with no spend November.  But I did cheat…exactly twice.  Once during the weekend of Little Gymnast meet.  At the end of the meet, we were both starving and while I did have dinner at home in the crockpot, I knew I couldn’t make the 3 hour drive without something so when we stopped to get gas, we each got a little snack…$13.59.  And then last night, the last night of the month, I just couldn’t resist a celebratory meal out for the kids and I to the tune of $42.  I immediately regretted this second one especially in light of how tight this next month will be, but boy it was good!

Otherwise, I stayed right on track with absolutely NO SPENDING!  Go me, go me!

Now, on the income side…

As I previously wrote, I have gotten a decent part time job which will start in January, but thus far have found no other work. However, I have been very blessed this week by two friends.  One had surgery and the little ones and I volunteered to go help her out for a few days while she was home recovering; she has a 10 month old and 2 year old at home.  It truly was a friend helping a friend.  Then I went to clean out my purse this weekend and there was an envelope in my purse with a check from them.  I called immediately and she said she knew I wouldn’t have taken it but they wanted to help me out.  I couldn’t help but cry.

And then another friend whose son is in three of my classes, unexpectedly paid me most of next semester’s tuition a month early.  What a blessing that was!

The kids and I had a great low key Thanksgiving.  We actually cooked a full meal including a turkey our neighbor gave us!  And better yet, we set up our 6 ft plastic table in the middle of the living room and ate together as a family…the first time we’ve sat together at a table in our tiny living space…and one of the things I miss the most.

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So in a nutshell, my No Spend November went great!  And I am looking forward to Do Good December!

 


My Stomach was in Knots but it is Okay

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Written on Tuesday…

For the first time EVER in my life, I had to meet with someone and tell them I could not take care of my family.  I had to go to the same building that I visited so many times as a foster parent and later adoptive parent full of pride that I was doing something to give back, something good and right, and admit that I was a failure.  I had to look at a woman in the eye and in essence say “I’ve failed to prepare for this situation by not saving and by using my money un-wisely.”  It was the worst feeling EVER.

And what a lesson.  I hate this situation.  I hate that my decisions brought me here.  I cringe at admitting what a failure I am.  But if the last year and then have taught me anything, it’s that I AM going to do better.

In no way shape form or fashion am I making excuses, but the one thing that helped me get through this morning while I was turning in shot records, leases, bank statements to what turned out to a extremely compassionate worker was that this is temporary.  I will get another job.  I will choose more wisely where my career path takes me.  I will make better money choices, even better than the ones I have started to make.  And more importantly, I WILL give back.

I do not deserve the support my community has given me and yet people have reached out offering Thanksgiving meals, help with Christmas and just words of encouragement.  But I do know that when I am back on my feet, the first thing I am going to do is find someone who has entered a dark time and reach out to them as so many have to me.

I will find out in a few days if/what assistance we qualify for, and I’ve been told that I have 10 days after I get my first paycheck to report a change in status.  I continue to seek the next step in this transition.

(And just a side note: I just completed my first of two phone interviews scheduled for today…and the second interview is scheduled for Friday.  I am counting on God to steer me as I step out in faith to follow what He has for me next rather than what I would choose.  Use me, send me…that is my prayer.)


No Spend Month by Default

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Needless to say, with my job loss, we are tightening our belts financially…

  1. We’ve stopped our weekly fresh milk and organic food deliveries.  Returning to bulk purchases as much as possible.
  2. All entertainment is out  the window – no going out to eat, movies, etc.
  3. I’ve redeemed all my stockpiled points for items needed while I had the cash to supplement them and so I didn’t lose them.  Items purchased include: stockpile of toilet paper (remember when I ran out of toilet paper?) new winter jacket for one of the twins, ink for the printer, Brita pitchers (2) to cut down on buying water.
  4. Cutting back activities where we can to save on gas costs as all activities have been paid for, so just limiting them…so one robotics practice a week rather than two, etc.
  5. Lots of other little changes….

And that has led us to a No Spend Month!  I have paid all the bills for the month, stocked the cupboard with the help of a friend’s Costco membership (I cut our Sam’s Club renewal,) and have laid out the entire month financially based on what we have going on.  The ONLY extra this month will be Little Gymnast first meet which is up near DC so it will require a bit of extra gas money.

So here is our budget for this month (with all bills paid already:)

  • Gas – $150 (includes some extra for travel to the gymanstic’s meet)
  • Food – $50 (will have to restock eggs, milk and some fresh fruits/veggies towards the end probably but we’ll see, I’m going to try and push it but am prepared just in case)

When I first started reading blogs I followed a mom who did not spend months every year and I was always fascinated by the things she did…so here I am looking for tips on making the food stretch, finding meals I can make for days we are gone all day and looking for free activities we can do to entertain ourselves.

So here’s to November…our No Spend Month!  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!


I May have Messed Up – Storm Prep

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Last week, the governor declared a state of emergency and our pantry was EMPTY!  We had been eating through our pantry prior to our trip to see my parents, so it was pretty bare around here.  With the imminent arrival of Joaquin predicted and our empty cupboard…I may have overspent on groceries, spending our entire monthly budget in one fell swoop. (I did not spend the weekly amount allotted for fresh, organic milk delivery.)

I wanted to be prepared for the storm.  (They compared the predicted results to a storm here in the Fall of 2003 when we lost power and clean water for almost 2 weeks.) I stocked up on gallons of water, batteries for flashlights and canned/non-refrigerated food.

And I wanted to fill our cupboards for our regular meals. So I restocked the freezer with frozen meats and veggies, brought fresh fruit and sandwich makings.  I realize this was counter-productive if we had faced significant power outages, but with grills and cooler and ice, this has worked for us in the past.

The food overwhelmed our tiny space and our counter tops are covered in cans and boxes.  It looks like the olden days when we had plenty of room to store food.

We are very thankful that the storm did not come ashore here, and that we kept power for the most part during the 6 days of solid rain.  And we are truly enjoying having a bounty of food to choose from during our days to cook the family meals (we rotate through the week based on our ever changing activity schedules.)

But I’m doubtful that the groceries will last the month, especially the fresh fruit.  I guess only time will tell, but for the first time in some months I may go over on a grocery budget by a pretty penny.

On the flip side…got a call about a potential job which means I may bring in some extra money this month.  Woot, woot!

 


Frugal Holiday Ideas

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I’m starting to think about the upcoming holidays. Last year we went out for our holiday meals due to our tiny kitchen and lack of dining table.  We are in the same predicament this year, but I’d really like the holidays to be more special somehow.

Here are the ideas I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Find a soup kitchen to serve and eat in for the holiday day itself.  *I’d really like to do this, but it must be somewhere we can all work which I haven’t had luck with in the past.
  2. Find a place to rent and have a kind of “displaced” family potluck inviting everyone we know, focusing on single moms, seniors, singles etc.  Might be able to tie it to some sort of fundraiser or food bank collection.  Make it an event which I think would be good for me emotionally but might also bless others.
  3. Take the kids to a hotel with a pool and just have a bunch of junk food.
  4. Do a fancy feast somewhere, dress up…

I don’t know, but I figure I should plan something now to budget and get something lined up.


Yogurt Date

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One of the joys of being more in control of my month, monthly expenditures and debt…is DATE time.  No, I am not dating…but I am definitely making a more concentrated effort to spend more one on one time with each of my kiddos.  Living in our tiny space have been stressful for us all, but especially as of late with the “hope” of being able to move and having that quashed multiple times.  (More on that another time.)

So I got to end my work day today with a yogurt date with Little Gymnast before dropping him off for his 5 HOURS of gymnastics training.  I love that I can schedule a DATE with him and not worry about spending the $10 for some fun without having a crushing weight over me, living paycheck to paycheck and wondering how to keep all the “balls in the air.”

So just a quick joy filled post about my wonderful mom/son date time today with yogurt…which I did use a $5 off coupon for – even better!


Giving Myself Some Grace

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When I wrote about my first week of work and the changes I was adjusting to (specifically the looooong days), I had several people comment to remind me to take care of myself and allow a couple weeks to get used to this huge adjustment in my life.

I’m definitely taking those comments to heart and although I don’t want to make long-term budget changes yet, there’s one in particular that I want to make at least for the short-term:

Increased grocery budget.

Prior to starting as a blogger here, I spent a TON of money each month on food. Between groceries and eating out (including $$$ drinks), we easily spent a thousand a month!

When I first started blogging, I set a grocery budget of $400/month for our family of 4, and a restaurant/eating out budget of $75/month (which I later increased to $100/month). So I’ve essentially cut our food spending in half!!!!

But it hasn’t been all daisies and roses! I have notoriously struggled with the grocery budget, in particular. I’ve written several times about how if I lose even a bit of focus that it comes out in my grocery spending. I’ll pick things up all willy-nilly at the grocery store just because it looks good or sounds good at the time. I’ll stray from my list and get random things that are really unnecessary or convenience foods I could make myself from scratch for cheaper. So it’s not like I’ve been operating at 100% this whole time but, in general, I’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to about $400/month in groceries for our family.

With this new job, however, I’m already finding it challenging to have the time to make all the from-scratch foods I like to make. I’ve tried to help myself by doing rollover meals (example: one night I made ground beef tacos and I browned some extra beef so the next night I could make a beef casserole dish), and I’ve done food prep once a week where I wash and cut up fruits and veggies so they’re ready-to-go. But I’m still finding it to be a bit of a challenge.

So I’d like to start buying a few prepared/frozen foods that I can just pull from the freezer, heat, and eat – especially on those days I’m feeling particularly drained. I don’t want to eat this way all the time (I still prefer fresh foods, myself), but I can see how the convenience is worth a little extra money at the grocery store – especially when the other option I’m considering is take-out. Frozen, prepared grocery store foods are still cheaper than take-out! So I think maybe 1-2 grocery store convenience meals per week might be a new thing for the next couple weeks.

I’m also going to try to beef up my own freezer stash. For example, in regard to the beef casserole I mentioned above, I made enough for 2 meals and froze half of it so we can eat at a later date. But until I’m fully stocked on my own homemade freezer meals and while I’m still trying to transition to my new roles both at home and the office, I want to offer myself a little grace in the form of an increased grocery budget. I don’t know what exact numbers will look like long-term, but for right now I’m thinking an extra $25/week (extra $100 per month) will really help ease the burden a bit during the evening rush to make food and feed the kids before other evening chores set in.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear some of your favorite work-night recipes, websites, or blogs that you frequent for quick, healthy meal ideas and kid-friendly foods!


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