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October – No Spend Month

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Ashley and I must be in sync. While she did an impromptu “No Spend Week,” the kids and I have been planning for a No Spend Month. The idea has actually been noodling around in my head for a while, but the push came with the loss of our second car last week.

The first blog I ever followed, was actually a young SAHM mom, who did no spend months quite regularly. She eventually shut down her blog, but I so admired her. Another thing that has kind of pushed me in this direction is my kids. Some of them are really struggling with shame and envy. Ok, I struggle with it myself. While I know exactly why we are where we are, they are having a harder time with it. Specifically they are struggling with seeing how other’s live and then looking at their own lives. My mom heart hurts.

I know in my head we are in the right place and I am doing my best. But as you can see from our budget, spending has ballooned since my income skyrocketed (especially compared to being practically homeless and jobless.) So we are going cutting back to the bone for one month.

No Spend Week Rules

These are the changes we are making for our “No Spend Month:”

  • I am only going to pay the minimum due on all my bills. (You will see the weekly payouts in my Friday posts.)
  • We are cutting our grocery budget to $25 a week for milk and fresh fruit and veggies and eating through our freezer and pantry which is VERY well stocked. We are looking forward to being creative with our pantry, at least for the first couple of weeks.
  • I am going to continue to give the kids allowance, but we will NOT use $200 “spending” money this month.
  • We have one exception to our minimized budget, we are going to move forward with the “clothes” money this month because frankly, the kids all NEED clothes. Because we do it in one fell swoop, we did agree that we have permission to eat out the two days we will be shopping. (Because we are down to one car, I have to take all three kids shopping, and because we live in a tiny town, the closest shopping other than Wal-Mart is an hour away.) We are going to shop this coming Friday and Saturday.

Wish us luck. I think we are prepared. We have prepped with laundry detergent and toiletries and I am confident this month will be a great learning and bonding experience for all of us. The kids have bought in. We are going to use the experience to have weekly talks about money management and making wise choices and even sacrifice.  I’m just grateful we get to choose our sacrifices this time rather than having them forced on us by job and hoe loss as we have experience in the last couple of years.

Have you helped your child deal with envy or shame regarding circumstances beyond their and sometimes your control? I would love some guidance.


Working Smarter, Not Harder

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Since my kids have started back to school this Fall, I’ve really been working to try to streamline our mornings. Their start time is earlier than last year which is good for me, but makes our mornings hectic. I know I should’ve been doing this all along, but I’ve recently started preparing school lunches the night before. Back when I was working full-time + part-time, I’d be busy working in the evening for my part-time job so I rarely made lunches until in the morning before school. With our earlier mornings, now, we don’t have that same luxury of extra time for food prep so I’ve been trying to find ways to save time by preparing things ahead of time as much as possible.

One example is that I’ve made a whole Snack Bin in our pantry. I like to buy things in bulk-size since it’s cheaper (e.g., pretzels, veggie sticks, and Cheese-It’s are all things I’ve bought in huge-sized packaging from Costco). But since we need individual-sized portions, I’ll open the bag and divvy it up into smaller-sized packages. I have a plethora of Glad-ware, so I try to use those as much as possible since they’re washable and re-usable. I also use ziplock snack-size bags sometimes as well. I take a few moments once per week to pre-portion our snacks and throw them in our Snack Bin so they’re easy to grab and add to a lunch box and/or be used as part of the kids’ morning snack.

Another example I borrowed (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, yes?) from another blogger. I recently saw a youtube video (and then a blog post < linked here for credit) from fellow-blogger, Jordan. She talked about making her own meat-and-cheese sandwiches in bulk and then freezing them for school lunches. Genius, right? She swears the kids love them and since it’s just meat-and-cheese it freezes and thaws out perfectly. No weirdness like you might get with lettuce or other additional ingredients.

Well, I had some lunch meat on its last leg anyway, so it either needed to be used or tossed out. What better use for it than to try Jordan’s idea of make-ahead meat-and-cheese sandwiches?

I used a couple different bread options:  I already had some homemade rolls that also needed to be eaten or tossed (winning! I love that these “last leg” food items weren’t wasted!), and I’d recently bought a long baguette from our grocery store that was only partially-used with dinner so lots leftover of it, too. I sliced everything up and added 2 thin slices of turkey lunchmeat and one slice of cheese (cut in half to fit).

After the assembly line, I put everything into big gallon-sized ziplocks and put straight into the freezer. I’m crossing my fingers that this works out. I just barely made the sandwiches so we haven’t tasted them yet. My kids can be picky, but I think they’ll enjoy having a meat and cheese sandwich on some “fun” bread (instead of boring old “normal” sandwich bread). I always pack a variety of other things as well (e.g., fruit, veggie, a juice box or “treat” of some kind, etc.), so hopefully the frozen sandwiches will be a part of a well-balanced school lunch! Woohoo!!

If you’ve got kiddos, what do you do to streamline your mornings? Have you ever tried making lunches in bulk and freezing for later? Any other “Work Smarter, Not Harder” type of tips?