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Ragnar Relay = Complete!

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Just popping in with a fun “life” update today. If you are only interested in strictly financial posts, just skip this one and check back tomorrow – I’m finally posting my budget!

I’ve mentioned a couple times about how I’ve been training for a big running relay race called Ragnar.  Well, the race is complete! It started Friday and ended Saturday. Today, I’m at home and in full recovery-mode (meaning, as little movement as possible and fully stocked with ibuprofen) 😉

Here’s a picture I posted on my Facebook:

23 hours, 15.4 miles of mountain running, 2.7 hours of sleep, 8 crazy teammates. So much fun!

Each member of our team had 3 different legs ranging in length from 4.1 – 6.6 miles of trail-running/mountainous terrain. I ran my first leg on Friday evening, my second leg on Saturday about 3am, and my last leg on Saturday at 10am. This photo was taken as I was taking off for my last leg of the relay. My shirt, appropriately, says “Everything Hurts and I’m Dying.” A little tongue-and-cheek, but definitely fitting for how I felt at that moment. I wore my Fitbit the entire time and for Saturday, my stats indicated that I’d gone 37,726 steps (= 17.91 miles), and climbed the equivalent of 114 flights of stairs (from the mountains we were running)! To say I’m pooped today is an understatement!

BUT – tired as I may be, I had an absolute blast! It was THE BEST time ever! And, as I’ve got 3 half-marathons under my belt (but nothing longer), this is a PDR (personal distance record). YIKES!

All my teammates immediately said they wanted to sign up again for next year. I’m still on the fence. I loved it, but I typically only sign up for a big race once every couple years. Committing to do it again next year feels like a lot to me. There’s a lot of time and effort dedicated to training, but it also costs money to go (the race was $120/person + we all pitched in another $25 for team shirts + a day off work, food and snacks for while we were there, etc.). We’ve got a few months to think it over so we’ll see.

For today, though, I just wanted to share this major accomplishment! I’ve heard of Ragnar races before, but never really considered doing one myself. If it weren’t for my teammates (friends/colleagues from my department) I probably never would have pushed myself to try to complete a Ragnar race. But the feeling of pride and accomplishment is huge! Just the little psychological boost I needed going into a new month! If I can accomplish something this big physically (15+ miles of running on mountainous terrain), surely I can conquer our monthly budget. Right?

I’ll be back tomorrow asking for your advice! I’m already nervous, so bring your patient pants, as I could use your support!

Have a great end to your weekend!

~Ashley


School Options

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It is time to explore school options for my youngest two children. Throughout my time here, my choice to homeschool my kids has been under-fire. I am not here to defend that choice, I still stand by it. The only thing I want is what is best for my kids, that’s it, that’s all.  Up until this year, I would never have blinked when answering that homeschooling was the best choice for them.

And now we are here, and my heart is broken that I am not there with them. I am not as hands on with their schooling. Our school time together is limited. And the daily time we have is when I am at my worst, tired and ready for bed. So now I must evaluate again the best schooling options for my children.

The Now

I am not going to rush into any decisions or changes. I am confident that what we are doing now is good enough for the remainder of this year. Both of the kids are using ALEKS for math which I love as it is based on Mastery. It also has great reporting for me to track the time they spend and their progress wherever I am. They have a variety of “workbook” type curricula they do independently primarily focused on writing and grammar skills. Both have a live online Spanish class once a week and are progressing fantastically (Princess would probably be considered fluent in Spanish now after 4 years of consistent study.) And then we are doing History through literature by reading and discussions daily and independent reading of biographies (Gymnast is currently reading about Harriet Tubman and Princess just finished Ronald Reagan.)

For this school year, I do not plan on making any changes.

School Options – Princess

I’ve hinted at it throughout my time here, but Princess is smart and very motivated to achieve a lot in her education. This is her personal drive. There are lots of school options for her. With that in mind, we have visited a local college prep school that offers both boarding and commuting options. She will be going into 9th grade next fall although she is working at higher grades for some subjects.

At this time, the plan is for her to start there in the fall.  I don’t know if it’s a long term commitment, but I think it is the best option for next year.  Of course, we have to get through the application process and financial aid.  We’ve just started the process after she shadowed a student for a day. She is thrilled at the opportunity, I am sad. But in the I want what is best for her.

The Cost: Private school is expensive. The average tuition for local kids visiting this particular school is $4000 per year. They do offer substantial financial aid. It is something I will have to consider after we get all the facts.

School Options – Gymnast

For Gymnast, I am struggling…he is my social child. He would love public school. However, unless they are willing with work with us on time, he would not be able to continue with gymnastics.  When he and I have talked, he does not want to give up gymnastics. This is his first year with online classes, and while he struggles with the technology, he enjoys it more than working independently most of the time. I am still looking for different options for him.

Or We Could Move (again)

One other thing I should mention is that if we were to move to SC (where they both play their competitive sports) they could both attend the public schools on a part time basis.  The districts there are very open to alternative school options. Unfortunately, it would move us away from family which was a big factor in us moving here and greatly increase my commute time. It is a thought in my head.

(I am not mentioning Sea Cadet as he is wrapping up his senior use as a dual enrolled student at the local community college and is doing fantastic.  He is taking 11 hours this semester and we are hoping for 15 next semester. He will be in college full time next year.)

 


Plan #2: Change to My Savings

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As previously mentioned, I have been adamant in my savings since I started my new W2 job back in March. I have saved 10% of any money that has come in with the ultimate goal of $10,000 in savings. Now that this goal is in sight, it is time to turn my focus to my debt and cut down on my savings.

Where I’m at Now

I’ve recently posted my Monthly Budget and my overall Debt Load. Then I took a cut in works hours and added a new sport. I am LOVING the freedom of working less hours per week.  I get home and get to sit down with the kids without feeling like a weight is on my shoulders to get back to work. I get to spend some of my “down time” when the kids are at practice reading a book for fun rather than focusing on work projects all the time.

However, I do need to look and see where the money is going to come from for Princess volleyball. I do not want this new expense to adversely affect my Debt Payoff Plan. I’ve spent about an hour a day reviewing my budget line by line to see what I can cut or move some money around.

Cut My Savings

Two things stand out as the places to cut…kids’ activities and related costs AND savings.  I think most everything else is pretty bare bones; although, I am looking at that too. But for now, I have decided to change my savings plan.

Instead of saving 10% of all income, I am now going to save 10% of my W2 income only. This cuts this line item almost in half and makes up some of the deficit.

This savings in coupled with my 401K deducted automatically from my W2 income and my Self Lender account where I save $97 per month. I’m looking for a few more cuts before I finalize my new budget.

Thoughts?


My Amazon Debt is GONE!!!

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My Amazon Debt is gone!!!  I moved the payment date up to today. I couldn’t resist. As of today, my Amazon line of credit is GONE! Paid in full.

amazon balance screenshot

Doing a happy dance over here and breathing a deep sigh as I set my sights on my other immediate goals.

New Budget = More Work

I spent a lot of time this weekend working on a new budget since I have voluntarily taken a temporary cut in pay. And I hate to say it, but we cannot maintain our current life without those addition hours or an equal amount of income. I am on the project hunt, applying through Guru.com and reaching out to past and current clients who might have some project work they need done.  I know from past experience I can either get really busy this time of year with one off projects or it will be really dry. Please send up a prayer for me.

New Sport = New Expense

Before I say this, I will admit, I am crazy and obsessed with providing my kids with every opportunity.  I get enough flack for that, so don’t think you have to tell me too (my attempt to stave off the whiplash I believe will come with this news.)  Princess recently tried out for a competitive volleyball team. She made it!  This team costs $1000 for the season. The fee includes all uniforms, tournament fees, training and so on. I reached out to her dad for financial assistance, we will see if he comes through.

Conclusion

I have one less monthly debt payment, and I plan to keep it that way – yeah!!!

I have a larger than manageable gap in my budget due to the cut in my regular 1099 hours.

I have a new substantial bill for the next few months ($300 due this week and then $175 monthly for the next 4 months.)

I’ve got my work cut out for me. And I would love some suggestions, specifically regarding making up the income as I really do not see anywhere I can cut in my budget, although I am still evaluating that.

Save

Save


Cheap Halloween Kids’ Craft

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After a rocky start to the school year (and a teacher who was replaced a month into the year), we LOVE our new teacher. But I was a little nervous when she texted the class parents at 4:30pm yesterday to say she needed 5 volunteers for a Halloween party today. The volunteers would also need to bring an activity to do for the whole class, supplies and all. Yikes!

I wanted to volunteer because I was planning to work from home today anyway and one of the perks of my job is its flexibility to do things like this! I wish I’d had a little more notice so I could’ve planned a really cool activity, but I set to the interwebs ASAP to find a kids’ craft that is: 1) age appropriate for 5-year-olds, 2) quick, & 3) cheap! Since I’d be providing the supplies I couldn’t get crazy with anything too elaborate or pricey!

Luckily, I found some cute little q-tip skeletons that fit all 3 criteria.

I was able to raid our craft bin for the glue bottles, scissors, and construction paper. I found a free printable for skeleton heads (see here) and printed enough for the whole class. I already had some q-tips on hand, but not enough for the whole class, so I did a quick Target run and bough the cheap store-brand q-tips for a whopping $2.77 (for a 500-count). Can’t get much cheaper than that!

I had so much fun getting to go volunteer in the class! It’s my first time of the school year and I had an absolute blast getting to hang out with my kiddos and meet many of their friends. The kids had several different craft options to choose from, but our skeletons were a big hit (truth be told: I think the kids just wanted to play with the glue bottles because they’re typically only allowed to use glue sticks. lol)

Here’s my kiddo working on her skeleton! Very focused! Oh yeah, costumes were allowed today too. 🙂

Happy Halloween!


Free Family Fun!

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I love this time of year because it always seems to be jam-packed with free things that we can do together as a family! Our area hosts monthly movies in the park, live music in the park, fall festivals, and more!

This weekend we took the girls to do something I’ve been wanting to do with them since they were babies….I took them to compete in their first race!

I love running. It’s my therapy of choice (False. I actually go to “real” therapy, too. But you know what I mean). I do compete in some races – typically one or two per year – but otherwise most of my running activities are nearly free because I already own plenty of running attire and it’s totally free just to run around outside in the neighborhood and/or on neighborhood trails! I figure it’s much cheaper than a monthly gym membership and I enjoy being outside much more than pounding out miles on the dreadmill (oops, I meant treadmill).

This weekend was the TMC Get Moving race series. I have serious history with this particular race. It was my first EVER 5K run nearly a decade ago. It was also my first post-baby half-marathon (my second half-marathon overall). It’s a very family-friendly race and this year we decided to “compete” in the FitKidz Family 1-mile run. Best of all, it was 100% FREE!

We registered the kids so they had official race bibs and received kid t-shirts. Parents were permitted to join kids on the course (also free), but no shirts or bibs for us. 🙂

The race was so well done, I was quite impressed! Hubs and I did the divide and conquer approach: he stayed with one kid and I stayed with the other. I didn’t think they’d finish the whole mile but, to my surprise, they both ran the entire way! I was so impressed and proud of their hard work (though to be fair – there’s no way the course was an entire mile. I didn’t map it on my Fitbit, but I’d guess it was closer to .6 or .7 of a mile. Either way, it was perfect for kids!)

At the finish line, all kids received a finishers ribbon and were treated to snacks (bags of chips or pretzels, water bottles, and eegees < a Tucson thing kind of like a slush/snow cone hybrid). They also had a big bounce house set up and a clown doing face paint and balloon animals. And again – all 100% free! I was seriously shocked at the number of amenities for this event! (Note: the race series also included a 5k and half-marathon as well < not free).

Hubs and I split up during the mile race because one child was naturally running a little faster than the other. I stuck with the leader and hubs stayed behind. The smile on my kids’ face as everyone cheered her on toward the finish line was absolutely priceless! I was running with her (and going much faster than I’d thought she was capable!!! I was impressed!), so I wasn’t able to get a picture of her, but after finishing we stood together at the finish line to cheer on Dad and sis. The smile on her face says it all. Proud mom moment here, folks!

Running is such a passion of mine, so it’s extra exciting to be able to share it with my kiddos! We will definitely be looking into this race again in the future! Most of the fun runs I’ve seen are not free, so the fact that this is offered (and so well organized! plus so many amenities!) totally free is a real perk!

Plus, look at these smiles! You can tell how proud they are of themselves! I love the confidence-building aspect of the race!

And a good weekend was had by all! 😉

What kinds of free Fall events are offered in your area? Do you have any annual favorites you look forward to?


Homemade Beef Broth (& Stew!)

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I hope everyone is staying warm wherever you are! Here in southern Arizona, we’re finally starting to get a little bit of chill in the air! Don’t get me wrong, it’s still 90 degrees mid-day. But the mornings and evenings are nice and chilly!

I’m pretending it’s colder than it really is by making yummy (and cheap!) cold-weather comfort food! And I’m doing it by using up leftovers! We’ve been doing GREAT this month using our money envelopes for groceries! I plan to stay consistent with the money envelopes for the time being because it’s really helped squash excess food spending! I’ve been in the process of a huge budget overhaul so a cheaper grocery budget is in our future! I’m glad I’m working my way back into a more frugal grocery lifestyle!

One night, I made a roast in my trusty crock-pot. I took the roast bones and put them in a pot of water on the stove and simmered them for a couple hours while I cleaned everything up and got the kids ready for bed. By the end of the night, I had wonderful homemade beef broth (with some chunks of beef that had been stuck on the bone).

A couple days later, I used up the broth and some of the leftover roast by making a simple homemade beef stew. I only used veggies I already had on hand:  potatoes, celery, and carrot – I would’ve loved some onion, too, but we were out. I used onion powder for flavor and it worked just fine.

Considering how picky my kids’ palates can be, they both absolutely LOVE soup of any kind! They both gobbled up everything in their bowls and asked for seconds! That’s a WIN in my book!

The best part is that we had an easy, yummy, homemade meal that cost us no money at all because it was made entirely from food we already had on-hand! I LOVE repurposing food from previous meals so we get every single penny’s worth! Score!

What are you eating this weekend? What are your favorite cold-weather comfort foods?


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