Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Well, we got a little help for March's challenge today in the form of the electric bill. We budgeted $225 based on last month's bill, but the bill was only $178. That brings us a LOT closer to our $1,000 snowball goal for March. Today I'm going to make a trip to the bank and see if they'll give me some more coin rolls since I'm out of penny & nickel rolls.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

March's challenge

In an effort to come to more agreement with our finances, Michael and I have made a compromise for March. I have been overwhelming him with all things Dave Ramsey, so I agreed to take a break for the month of March. For his part, Michael is going to help generate and/or cut enough from the budget so we can throw a $1,000 snowball at Sallie Mae. We are about $75 from our goal right now. Our first step was to find money already in the budget. We cut the clothing and haircut envelopes for March, and dropped the grocery budget to $310. We've cut out anything else that's extraneous.

As far as generating extra money, so far we've decided to see how much change we can roll (maybe $10 worth?), and we've got a few pieces of gold and silver jewelry that we're going to see if we can sell. He's going to ask at work to see if there are any opportunities to proctor an ACT test or do something for the athletic department to make a little money, and I'm going to see if I can do a babysitting job or two.

I'm going to blog about our progress on this goal!
On Friday, Michael and I went to his friend's apartment for drinks and snacky food. Grandma was generous enough to keep the boys for us :) We got to enjoy a night out for only the cost of a bag of chips and a jar of salsa. Considering how many beers Michael consumed, I think we actually netted a profit on the evening.

I made a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup to take over to Grandma's so she wouldn't have to feed the boys dinner. On Sunday, we still have plenty of leftovers for lunch today and tomorrow. I actually managed to stretch that chicken through three meals. I bought it on sale for 0.55/lb. at Fiesta. The whole chicken was roughly $2.70. I made a pot of chicken soup with half of it, last night we used some of the cooked chicken to make chicken enchilada casserole, and I held back one cup of the chicken for tonight's dinner of Chicken fried rice. That reminds me that I need to cook the rice so it can chill.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Last night Ethan's school hosted "Family Fitness Night". I was hoping that Family Fitness Night would entail dinner that Mom didn't have to cook, but alas, no food this time. We decided to eat leftovers for dinner before we left for school. We had a good time acting goofy with the kids--found out that my husband really sucks at Dance, Dance Revolution, lol :)

Tonight I'm making chicken fettuccini alfredo. I made fettuccini alfredo without the meat in my last menu cycle, but I still had enough heavy cream for another meal, so we're having it again. I bought the chicken breast with the B1/G2 deal that Albertson's had last week. I don't think anyone will mind eating it again. :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Good finds on food at the Dollar Store

I've had really good luck finding staples at the 99 Cents Only store. My sister turned me on to the fact that they sell food, including produce. They always have different things, so I can't really plan for what I'll buy there. I usually go there first to see what staples I can get for a cheaper price than the grocery store
This week I got:
Romaine Lettuce
Butterball Turkey Lunchmeat
5 lb. bag of potatoes
A dozen eggs (I bought 2)
A big package of green onions

Everything was $1, except for the green onions, which were $0.25.

I had an awesome find of half-pints of blueberries the last time I went. They don't have any limit on how many you can buy. Nothing is out of date--I think they just get overstock, because you never know what you'll find the day you go in.
I shopped on Saturday for the next two weeks. Here are our dinner meals:

Beef fajitas, spanish rice, guacamole (V-Day)
Homemade chicken noodle soup and bread
Polish sausage dinner
Chicken pot pie, salad
Chicken enchilada casserole, lettuce and tomato
Beef tacos, refried beans
Homemade Italian sausage and mushroom pizza, salad
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, greens
Chicken fettuccini alfredo, broccoli
Chicken fried rice w/peas
Salmon cakes w/mustard sauce, mac and cheese, zucchini
Breakfast for dinner
Not-sagna (Rachael Ray recipe), broccoli
Chicken in the crockpot, mashed potatoes, corn
Pantry Meal

Monday, February 16, 2009

Homemade "Cinnabon" Cinnamon Rolls

Ethan was running a fever last night, so he stayed home from school today. And since he stayed home, of course he would be acting just fine all day. To keep them entertained, I decided we would make cinnamon rolls from the book Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy, that I just picked up from the library.

I used her recipe for the dough and filling, but her icing recipe required a lot of ingredients, so I opted to just make a simple milk & powdered sugar glaze. They were time consuming, but soooo worth it.

Cinnamon Rolls:
1 T. dry yeast
1 c. warm milk
1/3 c. white sugar
1/2 c. soft butter
1 tsp salt (I omitted, because I used salted butter)
2 eggs
4 c. flour

Dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Knead into a ball or put in a bread machine on the dough setting. Let rise until double in size. When ready, roll out to about 1/4-inch thick. Spread with filling.

1/4 c. soft butter
1 c. brown sugar
3 T. cinnamon

Spread butter evenly on dough. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon evenly over buttered gouh. Roll up dough. Slice roll into 1-inch slices. Place on a greased pan. Let rise until double in size. Bake 10 mns. at 400 degrees.

1/2 c. soft butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 oz. cream cheese
2 tsp. whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Beat until fluffy. When rolls are hot spread icing on them.

or you can use my cheaper and simpler recipe for icing from my ancient Redbook cookbook:
1 c. sifted powdered sugar
4 tsp. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together and drizzle over warm cinnamon rolls.

We ate some for dessert tonight and my husband raved over them. Ethan will love having one in his lunchbox tomorrow.

...I will not be making these after Friday when my biggest loser challenge starts :)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day 2009

On Friday morning I heard this review on NPR for a new album by Willy Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel. From what I heard, I thought that Michael would probably really like it, so I thought I'd get it for him for Valentine's Day. I went to three stores to try to find the album, but ended up buying the digital version from Walmart.com. So I spent $9 of my spending money on his V-Day gift. While I was out yesterday afternoon, my husband made me a slide show of family pictures and had the kids hold goofy signs to tell me Happy Valentine's Day. He even got the dog in on the action!

We had a homemade family Valentine's dinner of fajitas, spanish rice, and chips and guac. Michael used some of his Christmas present (I restocked his liquor cabinet ;) to make margaritas. Kroger had Blue Bell half gallons for $2.99, so we got chocolate covered cherry ice cream, complete with cordial cherry hearts. After we put the kids to bed we cuddled on the couch and watched a movie that we borrowed from the library.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Last night we went to a baseball game at Michael's school. He was an assistant coach last year, so he still likes to go and support the kids. Ethan, in particular, really loved watching the game. I think high school games are perfect for him, because he can be right there with the action and easily see everything that is happening in the game. It was a nice way to spend the evening with my family without having to spend money. :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Paid off the last consumer debt!

Today we paid off our Discover Card. The final balance was $1687.08. We are now down to only student loans. We no longer owe money to family, we have no car payments, no furniture payments, and no credit cards!!! And most importantly, we will NEVER again have any of those payments!

We also have enough left in the budget to throw a good chunk at Michael's Sallie Mae loan.

Monday, February 9, 2009

In honor of Valentine's Day

I have to share a letter that we received from Capital One many months after we'd paid off the balance.

At the top is a picture of a broken heart shaped cookie with "Love" written on it.

The top of it says:
"You never write. You never call. You never charge.
What did we do? Or (gulp) not do?"

Dr. Michael E. and Shirelle E.,
No holding back. Here it is. This relationship is not working. But it's not you, it's us. So let's talk. Call us and tell us what you need to make your card better."

This truly made my day. Seriously.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Experimenting with Container Gardening

I have absolutely no gardening experience, but I've decided to try some container gardening this year. I really have no clue what I'm doing, but I'm determined to learn. We're going to try growing tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce. On Monday, the boys and I started our seedlings in paper cups.

I don't really know if this will really end up being a frugal experiment. The start-up cost was about $25 for the soil, fertilizer, and seeds. I used containers that I had around the house, and bought one extra at the dollar store. I figure that at the least, I might learn a skill that could eventually save us a lot of money.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Am I the only one who is optimistic right now?

There is so much negativity everywhere I look right now! Every single day the news is more about how the economy is crashing in around us and in every mundane conversation I have with a friend someone mentions something about "this economy". Yesterday I decided not to listen to talk-radio to avoid hearing more negativity, and I flipped to the top-40 station. A girl had called in to request a song and the DJ asked her where she was headed today. "To a job interview", she said. He laughed and said, "Wow, you must have one of the four interviews in this country right now!" Okay, so top-40 is out now, too, I guess.

I don't mean to sound like I don't care about people losing their jobs--I really do. I know that some families are hurting right now. It's just that the truth is, that most people that I personally know, still have their jobs. I actually have a job interview next week, and one other potential one in the works. I feel like people are being told by the news and that stupid DJ guy, that their lives are being dictated by forces that they cannot control (the economy), and when people feel like they have no control, they lose hope.

I have no reason to be filled with fear right now, other than the fact that everyone is telling me that I SHOULD be filled with fear. Back when the economy was great, we were so incredibly broke. In our case, I can clearly see that our choices made us broke--not some unseen force that I couldn't control. Right now, our choices are turning us more towards prosperity. I can't say that someday we won't have hard times. I know that we will probably have some point where we will struggle, but during these times when we are doing well, we are doing everything we can to prepare for those inevitable times of struggle. If we have no debt, live below our means, and have plenty in savings, we will be more prepared if hard times hit us.

So, even though it is really unpopular, I am choosing to be optimistic about my family's future. We are still in control of our own situation, and I have no reason to be anything other than hopeful.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Family Math Night=Free Dinner

Ethan's school hosted a "family math night" last night. My kid is not at all interested in playing basketball or going to the zoo, but a night devoted to math is the equivalent of giving him an unlimited supply of ice cream. He was WAY excited. I was pretty excited, because they were going to feed us, and I didn't have to make dinner. We had a thoroughly unhealthy dinner of hot dogs, chips, and cookies at the math night "tailgate party". Then the kids played math games for a couple of hours, and we finished up with prizes for everyone who stayed the whole night, and a raffle for a grill and a ski ball game. All the kids who came got their name called out to get prizes, and Ethan was the first one who got to go get his prize of a Chutes and Ladders board game. He attributed his status of first to his being the "goodest" of all the kids. I was eyeing the grill, but sadly, we will have to keep using our kid-sized one. I was pretty excited for the third grader who won the ski ball game--apparently it had been sitting in the auditorium for a few days in preparation of math night, and all the kids in the school really wanted to win it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

45% of income for debt payoff -- January Wrap-up

Just double-checked my January budget to make sure everything is finished up for the month. Here's how the month shaped up:

I generated $62.50 in extra income by selling a textbook and rolling coins.

We spent $355 on groceries.

My one non-necessary expenditure was $100 on a pair of running shoes. NOT frugal, but after months of heel pain from my cheap shoes, I broke down and bought some good running shoes for my flat, ugly feet.

And the biggie:
In January, 45.1% of our income went for debt payoff.

Tax Refund

Between education credits and that tax rebate correction, we are getting right at $2,000 back on our taxes. That is going to pay off our Discover card (our LAST consumer debt!!), and get us started on the first student loan snowball. It's going to be deposited around Feb. 13. I am pumped! We've decided that we're going to close that account completely. We've kept some of our other lines of credit open since we plan to buy a house sometime in the future. This one's line of credit is only $7,200, and we've only had it for about a year (we did a balance transfer), so it needs to go. Not to mention, those people are really annoying. They call me constantly trying to sell me credit monitoring, some crappy life insurance policy, and other stuff that I don't stay on the phone long enough to hear about.