Monday, September 28, 2009

My husband is sick, and I'm really hoping it's not the flu. He is running a fever and hasn't really eaten anything in two days, so I'm worried that it is. The man turned down steak and baked potatoes last night, so I knew he was really sick. We really don't visit the doctor very often, and try to treat things at home, but he is going to go ahead and go in today, since the flu is so widespread here right now. I'd rather keep the kids home if I know someone in our house has it.

I've realized that in months where one of us is sick, our budget kind of goes by the wayside. If it does, it isn't a huge deal, because we almost always have enough money waiting to go to the snowball, and if that has already been sent, we have the emergency fund available. But, I have tried to do a few things to keep it from happening anyway. Illness is just something I know we'll have to deal with, so I should be prepared.

As a preventative, the boys and I have been taking cod liver oil (for the vitamin D) and getting as much sunshine as we can. Michael can't stomach the cod liver oil, and really hates to take any pills or medicine.

I try to already have medicine we'll need on hand, purchased as inexpensively as possible. My dollar store carries aspirin, ibuprofin, and antibacterial spray (lysol). They also have a number of other medicines that you might need.

I'm also a big believer in home remedies, like chicken soup. When whole chickens go on sale to below 79 cents/lb, I stock up. I always make stock from the bones, and freeze it to make soups. I didn't happen to have any stock today, so I bought a whole chicken and am making a big pot of soup for dinner. If you throw a splash of apple cider vinegar into the stockpot, it helps extract everything from the bones. I also like my neti pot, as an alternative to decongestants. I bought one several years ago, and instead of using the little salt packets that they come with, I just use a cheap container of table salt. I don't have allergies, but I've heard that people who do have gotten a lot of relief from using a neti pot regularly.

If I feel like I'm coming down with something my regimen is lots of water, lots of sunshine, stay away from sugar, extra vitamin D and C, light exercise, and go to bed early. I don't know how much good it does, but at least it makes me feel like I'm being proactive.

I try to do extra cleaning when we're sick. I do a quick clean on the bathrooms a couple of times a day and wash our linens daily until we're well. If it's a particularly bad illness, I'll lysol all the light switches, phones, computer, etc. I try not to do that too often and stick to natural stuff as much as possible.

I do think that when this illness is over, I'm going to clean out our medicine cabinet, and put money in the budget to re-stock it so we'll be more ready for next time.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yay for Deregulation!

Last year everyone was cursing Texas's deregulation of electricity. This year, with natural gas prices at all-time lows, we're celebrating lower electricity bills! For those that don't live in Texas, it can cost a LOT of money to cool your house in the summer. $400-$500 electric bills aren't that uncommon, especially in older homes. In one of the places we lived a few years ago, we would have summer bills that averaged about $350, and that was in 1,000 square feet.

We were locked into a year long contract since last summer, and when it expired I decided to switch. Our rate went from 0.14 per kwh to 0.10 per kwh. I was totally excited to get a bill for $107 today! We have NEVER had an electric bill that low, even when we lived in a tiny apartment five years ago. I need to do some research on when the best time to lock-in a rate is. The rates are so low right now that I'm tempted to go ahead and lock-in, but I'm not sure. I felt like I jumped the gun last year and locked in right before rates dropped, because I was afraid of them going up. I've heard that January is the best time. Going to have to research all of that. If anyone has any thoughts on that, feel free to leave me a comment!
This seems to be the month of the car repair. Almost all of our snowball has gone for car repairs this month. First it was my car needing bearings before it could pass inspection, then last week Michael's car started leaking oil. We also have been thinking about a trip to Georgia to have Christmas with family, and we're feeling really nervous about Michael's car (supposed to be the reliable one!). Our mechanic has been recommending a tune up for it. Thankfully, we did have some money saved up in our car maintenace envelope, so we didn't have to dip into the emergency fund. So far this month we've cash flowed:

rear bearings on the Kia
Oil change for the Kia
Inspection for the Kia

Some kind of $60 oil repair on the Buick (can't remember exactly what it was)
Tune up on the Buick

Somehow we do still have about $280 to throw at our current Sallie Mae loan this month. At least that's something.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

$20 starts a fall wardrobe

Because of my weight loss, I'm having to buy new clothes for every season. I cleaned out my closet the other day and realized I had two long sleeve shirts, and no sweaters at all. I've given away all of my bigger clothes. So last week I hit up Goodwill on half-price day and got some GREAT bargains. I'm sure my husband thoroughly enjoyed the post-shopping fashion show. My best score was a pair of boots for $4. I'm not in need of a lot of pants or skirts right now. My sister was able to give me about six pairs of jeans and other pants, and I bought skirts during the summer. I just needed long-sleeved shirts and sweaters to pair with what I already have.

White Keyhole shirt -- $2

Baby blue sweater -- $2 (my favorite color :)

Brown dress boots -- $4

White button-down tommy hilfiger shirt NWT -- $2. I've been looking for white shirts to go with the skirts I have.

Black shirt $2

Black & white stripes $2

Red sweater $2

Grey Gap sweater $2 (I won't be wearing it with another bulky sweater underneath, of course.)

I don't know what color you call this, but I like it :) $2

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Meal Plans 9/1 - 9/15

Spent $137 on groceries yesterday, leaving $13 in my grocery envelope for replenishing produce if necessary.

Here is my meal plan for the next two weeks:

Beef Tacos, lettuce & tomato
Beef curry, cooked zucchini
Pork chops, mashed sweet potatoes, cooked cauliflower
Ham & potato quiche, basic cooked greens
Steak, baked potatoes, corn on the cob
Chicken curry, steamed broccoli
Mediterranean Tortellini, salad
BBQ stuffed baked potatoes, salad
Spaghetti, green beans
Pot roast, roasted vegetables, greens
Tuna Burgers, baked french fries
Grilled chicken salad with mango salsa
Hot dogs, potato salad, green beans
Beef & cheese enchiladas, black beans
Chicken & corn chili, cornbread
Leftovers or breakfast for dinner

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some savings on big car repairs yesterday

I drive an '01 Kia Optima with 125,000 miles on it. We've been lucky that it's not given us many problems in the last couple of years. We took it in for some regular maintenance about six months ago, and our mechanic told us the rear bearings needed to be replaced. We put it off all summer, because with Michael home, we mostly drove his car. But in the last couple of weeks since school started, I'd really noticed how dangerous the car was feeling, especially if I got on the freeway. I took it in to get inspected this week, and it failed because of the bearings.

I originally took it to Jiffy Lube for the inspection, since I had a coupon for 15% off inspection. Their computer was down, so I thought I'd take it over to Firestone. I decided to ask them if they would take Jiffy Lube's coupon, and they did. My car ended up failing inspection which I thought might happen, and I told the guy what our mechanic had quoted us on the bearings. I asked him if he could beat my mechanic's price, and he knocked 10% off the labor and parts. They are also open on Saturdays, which is a big bonus, since it's a major hassle to take our car to our regular mechanic during the week. Michael and I go totally opposite directions everyday and it's hard to share one car.

So I saved $40 on the rear bearing repair, and $6 off the inspection. I also noticed a survey at the bottom of my receipt, which will get me $10 off a future repair.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Homemade Croutons

I keep a ziploc bag in my freezer and collect the heels of bread, hamburger/hotdog buns, bagels, as they get stale or are just about to get stale. When it starts to fill up, I make croutons or bread crumbs. On this occasion, I made croutons. This was a good cooking activity for the kids to do. I had three hamburger buns that we hadn't eaten. First I buttered the bread, then I had Ethan cut it up into squares with a butter knife. Spread them in one layer on a cookie sheet, and while the oven is already on for something else at not too high of a temperature (200-350-ish), bake them until they are completely dry. Let them cool, and store them in a ziploc bag in your freezer. They are really good too! You could even bake them with some parmesan or some italian seasonings on them if you wanted to. If you wanted to do garlic croutons, use a little garlic salt after you butter them. That night I needed them to make a stuffing to go with a turkey roast we had for dinner.

This is a great way to use something that most people throw away (stale bread) to make something that people usually buy (croutons).

Finished crutons (note my well-loved ziploc bag, lol--this is probably the 8th time it's been used):