29 February 2012

No Spend Challenge - Last day - Recap

Well, we made it. And, surprisingly this month flew by! I was sure it would drag on and on, but it didn't. We ended up spending $73 of the $75 we originally had in our cash envelope to get us through the month, but I would still consider this challenge I gigantic, enormous, super duper SUCCESS. It was a success for a number of reasons. We weren't just successful at not spending money. We were successful at accountability, at improvising, at sharing, at compromise (the good kind), at being grateful for things we have been known to take for granted, at meal planning, at standing up to peer pressure, at being an example of fiscal responsibility to our kids/friends/family members, at cherishing our many blessings, at enjoying life without excess, and at not wanting to justify things we usually allow ourselves to feel entitled to.

This month, and in the months leading up to this month, I heard many people say, "There is no way we could do that." Well, of course you could! Anyone CAN do this. Most people just don't even want to try. If you didn't have any money to spend, of course you could go a month without spending anything! People do it all the time! And, I know I have been known to knock the powers of perspective, but this challenge really made me take a hard look at things that I have labeled as needs. There are people out there who do a no spend challenge EVERY month because they have no choice, and then there are people who convince themselves on a daily basis that they NEED their coffee, their pedicures, their highlights, their expensive beauty products, their satellite television...even if they accruing massive amounts of debt to get these things. I have personally been known to justify See's candies, new 4 inch heels, Gymboree clothes that wont fit my kids until they are six, fast food, and so much more as needs. I am not going to give these things up permanently, but from now on I will label them appropriately as wants or special treats...and only spend on them sparingly.

This month has made us decide to change a lot of how we are going to do things in the future. I will be cutting everyone's hair from now on. I will be making bread often. We will be using cash envelopes a la Dave Ramsey for our budget (we didn't think we needed to do that before, but are now convinced that it makes a HUGE difference).

This month also reinforced our desire to continue doing certain things that have been working well for us so far. Cloth diapers and cloth wipes are saving us a "butt" ton every day. We have also been using homemade laundry detergent for the last year and a half (and have spent a total of $6 on laundry detergent for that entire period).

I spent a significant amount of my adult life convinced that buying things could make me happy, that if I could just have THAT certain thing that all my other problems would seem insignificant. That led me to heaps of consumer debt, and unhappiness. Thank God Brad came along at the perfect time in my life to rescue me from that, and teach me some lessons I wasn't super excited to learn at the time. However, as responsible as he is about saving, I think a little bit of me has worn off on him over the years...and as a couple we were just getting into a bad place regarding the relationship we have with our money. We are both content with making certain sacrifices or compromises in order to avoid debt...like avoiding a car payment by driving older cars that we can afford to pay cash for, using cloth diapers, not really investing much in the brands of our clothing or the decor of our home, buying used electronics (woo hoo $100 laptops), and more. BUT, it seems those things have become easy to us, and once we accepted them as easy, they were no longer compromises...they were just the norm. Yet, we still convinced ourselves that since we were making an effort to save in some areas, that it was okay to spend elsewhere. That makes no sense...and nobody is going to come up to us and say, "What is the point of saving money {here}, if you are just going to turn around and waste money over [here]?" I wish people would do that! If something doesn't make sense, point it out! Even if we try to justify it, we will still have to stop and think about it, and no bad can come out of that! :)

In a world that has sadly turned into a place where accountability is unwelcome, I am just going to come out and challenge every person reading this to reevaluate their relationship with money. Consider entitlement, need vs. want, and overlooked blessings. I will go even further in challenging you to challenge someone else! It's hard because other people's finances are supposed to be none of your business. But, if it is someone who has made that information known to you (think repeatedly mentioning on facebook that they are struggling to make ends meet, while also posting photos of their new Coach boots), and you care about them...it becomes your business. Sitting idly by as they are spiraling deeper and deeper into a hole that will be very hard to get out of...is not doing them any favors. Of course it is very intimidating to try to tell people what you think they should or should not do with their money, so maybe just make changes in yourself that they will notice. Be inspiring! That is what we are hoping to do with this challenge. We wanted to hold ourselves accountable in a way that could inspire others to do the same...because, let's face it, there is just no nice way to say, "You are being stupid with money, and it is going to come back to bite you." I know, because I have tried it. :(

I am so glad that I read that no-spend article four years ago, and that (even though it took 4 years) we finally decided to challenge ourselves. We will do it again, hopefully every February, as a reminder of who and how we want to be. It is effective when done once, but the lessons will probably wear off over time. I'd compare it to being affected by reading a certain bible verse and wanting to apply it to your life, or returning from a missions trip with a whole new view on the world we live in...after time passes, you go right back into your old ways and pick up your old views right where you left off, UNLESS you continue to put yourself in situations that remind you of those feelings. I am really excited to try our best to maintain the feelings we have about our money RIGHT now, by doing this again.

Whether you have $35,000 in credit card debt, or two car payments, or a $900 balance on a signature loan, or zero debt, or $135,000 in a savings account earning interest, I encourage you to ACCEPT this challenge...ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. The household income that we bring in every month is a blessing, a gift from God. How often do you ask yourself whether or not what you are about to spend money on is God honoring? I know I don't ask myself that often enough. It's sometimes hard to define need vs. want in our lives, but it is easier when the justifications to yourself disappear and are replaced with an accountability to God. It also helps to have people in your life who will help hold you accountable to God. Ask yourself if what you are about to purchase is to impress someone or to influence someone. You will often find that you like that ugly $250 purse for all the wrong reasons. :)

Okay, now getting down to the details of this month:

**I don't feel weird putting this out there, because any person could find out what me make in less than 10 seconds using Google**

February pay and entitlements (on our pay statement):
-base pay: $3976
-basic allowance for housing: $2637
-basic allowance for subsistence: $348
-cost of living allowance: $1020
TOTAL: $7981

Normal monthly outgoing $$$ (on our pay statement): $4860
-Taxes (FICA, SS, Federal, State): $804
-SGLI (life insurance for both of us): $32
-TSP (thrift savings plan/retirement account): $755
-Savings account deposit allotment: $525
-Dental insurance: $32
-allotment to cover mortgage on our rental property in Nebraska: $75
-Housing (living in base housing means they just take all of our BAH): $2637
TOTAL: $4860

So that leaves us with $3121 each month, deposited in our checking account on the 1st and 15th in the amount of $1560 each pay period.

We subtracted from our $3121 to pay for the following:
Star Card Payment: $200
Amazon card payment: $200 (I have two cards that only I have used, and I pay off the balances with my monthly allowance, making me responsible for the irresponsible decisions I made in the past, instead of just having Brad rescue me-I usually get a $200 allowance each pay day)
Jocelyn's preschool: $175
Internet: $40
Cell phone bill: $100
Menehune water delivery: $10
Netflix: $8
TOTAL: $733

That left us with $2388.

THEN, we made some extra $$$.
Sold mattress: $100
Sold futon: $75
Made/sold T-shirt quilt: $60 (plus a 12-pack of Dr. Pepper :)
Sewed patches on uniforms: $40
Total: $275 extra cash brought in

We started out the month with $75 cash(that we made with recycling cans and bottles at the end of January). We spent $73 of our $75 on the following:
Milk @ $5 x 6 = $30
Eggs @ $2 x 2 = $4
Butter @ $1 x 3 = $3
Amy went out for Sarah and Rose's going away dinner = $20
Brad went out for Jason's going away lunch = $16
TOTAL: $73. (so really +$2 saved)
We should currently be sitting on $2663 that we normally just spend on WHO KNOWS WHAT!!!

We usually spend $600+ on groceries and $200+ on gas, and this month we tithed that $800 instead.

But still, that leaves us with $1863 that normally goes where?

- Boot Camp $110
- Fast food $250(kind of contradictory to that first thing, huh?)
- Gymboree $50 (at least)
- movies $$
- ice cream $$
- kid toys $$
- babysitting $$
- dinner out $$
- clothes
- baby shower/kid birthday gifts
- direct sales parties (Scentsy, Pampered Chef, PartyLite, Advocare, Silpada, and way too many more)
- knick knacks and other random things that were just "too good of a deal" to pass up
- candy bars, chips and fountain sodas from the mini mart when we are feeling snacky
- a bunch of stuff that I can't even think of because it is so unnecessary

**fun fact** Brad has never once had a car payment, and had never had a credit card until he accidentally applied for one after he met me (we did it to get free beach towels at a Giants game--most expensive towels ever. I hope Stacey still has them).

Anyway, we don't have car payments, or buy designer hand bags and cologne. We aren't caught up at all in 'status' type possessions...but we might as well be, based on how much money we have been throwing away on useless crap.

We added over $1800 to savings this month, in addition to the $1200 we put away every month(between our TSP contribution and our savings account allotment). That money will help us out big time when we get to San Diego in 2 1/2 months and we need to buy a car for Brad and pay closing costs on our new home (not to mention having to buy appliances). With our tax return and our savings account, hopefully we will have enough cash to cover everything without draining our accounts.

We will be losing that $1000+ cost of living allowance when we leave Hawaii. This concerned us at first. How will we make ends meet on a $1000/month pay cut!?? Well, thanks to this challenge, we now know that we were just tossing $2000/month away on whatever...and that pay cut doesn't sound as intimidating anymore. :) I know we will be fine.

Even when we start spending again tomorrow, we are not going back to our old ways. Each time we spend it will be with full awareness of what is important to us in the big picture. We plan to save at least $750 more in March just by using what we have learned about ourselves this month.

OH, and Jocelyn saved thirteen quarters this month! I was excited about this at first, until I realized that thirteen quarters just represents that she only did what she was supposed to do less than 50% of the time. We gave her a quarter each day that she managed to eat all of her lunch, take a nap, eat all of her dinner, AND have the baby jail picked up before bedtime. Perhaps I should consider the fact that she actually did that thirteen times as a win?

Anyway, we will be doing this again next February...if you are interested in doing it with us then, let me know...and we can encourage each other, and I can help you prepare. February really is the best month to try this out...regroup from holiday spending, practice self control by not touching that tax return (as tempting as it is), don't waste any money on Valentine's Day (instead find other ways to show your love), and it is a SHORT month. :)

Thanks for following us on this journey...all three of you who actually read this far. :) I hope you have been inspired somehow.

Ooh, I forgot to mention that I lost 6 pounds! I don't own a scale, so I don't track my weight gain/loss regularly...but I had a doctor appointment yesterday, and they weighed me. I was surprised to see that I weighed 6 pounds less than the last time I weighed myself in mid January on my sister's scale. I was wearing running shoes and pants, AND I had not fed Carolyn in about 10 hours (so my milk makers were heavier than normal). When I weighed myself in January, I had just fed Carolyn, and I was in my birthday suit. So, it might have actually been more than 6 pounds. I absolutely think this weight loss is directly related to our no spend challenge and not to the measly five times I ran this month. :)

28 February 2012

No Spend Challenge - Week 4

Wednesday, February 22nd:
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Brad and I had egg salad sandwiches and the kids had PB&J
Dinner: Chicken Katsu, rice and broccoli
We took in the recycling we have collected this month, for a cool $40. I also started sewing patches on uniforms for one of Brad's coworkers, so that will bring in some extra cash this week. Carolyn's 4 month appointment was today, so we went to the clinic and back home. The van is just at a half tank of gas, so we should be good there for the rest of the month. Cash: $177 + $40 for recycling = $217

Thursday, February 23rd:

Breakfast: pop tarts
Lunch: sandwiches for us, leftover chicken katsu for Brad
Dinner: Lasagna
Jocelyn had school today, and I took the other kids on a nice little run, and then to the park. We all took naps (yes, including me). It was a very uneventful day, but we had some good quality time playing Super Mario after dinner. This kids love to watch us play and pick one of us to cheer for. Cash: $217

Friday, February 24th:

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Macaroni and Cheese
Dinner: Home Port...Soup, chicken salad sandwiches, corn bread, fresh fruit. YUM!
Today was great! We ran out of juice and fruit snacks, but the end is near! I finished the t-shirt quilt for my friend Amanda. She offered me $60 and a 12-pack of Dr. Pepper! I was a little bit more excited about the Dr. Pepper, since I can't spend the money yet...and I have gone 60+ hours without DP. :) I still haven't gotten around to replacing the elastic in my diapers, but I did sew patches on some uniforms for a coworker of Brad's. The uniform shop charges something insane like $3.25 per patch. Six uniforms times six patches per uniform would have cost him more than $125. So, I offered to do it for $40 (approximately $1 per patch). So, I made $100 this week with my sewing machine! We had soup for dinner at bible study tonight, but our friend Kelly was smart and made a big pot of mac and cheese for the kids. There was a ton left over, so we took that home to reheat for lunch for the next couple days (the kids will never get sick of it, and I happen to be a fan of left over mac and cheese). We also came home with a few tangerines and a ton of bread, in addition to the 12-pack of Dr. Pepper and mac and cheese. I always leave Home Port feeling truly blessed by the people there, but tonight I felt extra honored to know that our friends are so supportive of what we are doing this month. As of today, we have brought in $100 for the mattress, $75 for the futon, $40 for the recycling, $60 for the quilt, and $40 for the uniform patches. That totals $315. The bills we paid at the beginning of the month were $175 for Jocelyn's preschool, $100 for our cell phone bill, $35 for internet, $10 for Menehune water delivery, and $8 for Netflix. That totals $328. So, If I can sell $13 worth of stuff on craigslist in the next 5 days, we will have actually spent ZERO dollars of this month's pay check, not even for bills. :) Cash: $277 (we haven't actually gotten the $40 from Brad's coworker yet)

Saturday, February 25th:
Breakfast: toast
Lunch: Teriyaki burgers
Dinner: Chicken soft tacos at the Weaver's new house
We started meal planning for March, and making a grocery list. We are excited to start spending again with the revamped relationship we have formed with our money. All of our future spending decisions will be affected by our experiences this month. I think it is going to be hard to spend money again! Cash: $277

Sunday, February, 26th:
Breakfast: cereal
Lunch: The last two teriyaki burgers for me and Brad, grilled cheese and applesauce for the kids
Dinner: Hamburger Helper
I cut Brad's hair again, for the third time this month. That's $30 saved this month just on cutting Brad's hair, something I should have been doing for years! Sam needs a haircut too, and I am going to try that this week because I have been paying way too much for his haircuts. We ran out of juice a couple days ago, and the kids have been begging for something other than water. I found some Kool Aid in the pantry that was either left here by my sister, or given to me by someone who was moving away. I am going to make some tomorrow. Cash: $277

Monday, February 27th:
Breakfast: Toast
Lunch: grilled cheese and cream of broccoli soup
Dinner: Baked chicken, corn and canned sweet potatoes.
I forgot how much I love sweet potatoes...even from a can. Yum. Well, we are closing in on the end of the month, but I just couldn't wait any longer to buy my plane ticket to San Diego for house hunting. I spent $400 dollars today, and it broke my heart. It felt like SO much money. Anyway, it's not like I was planning a leisure weekend just for kicks...this was pretty much necessary. Many of the houses in our price range that are in decent neighborhoods, near decent schools, and are big enough to fit all of our stuff (and grow our family), are short sales. Short sales supposedly take a long time to close because instead of just buying it from a seller by a traditional sale, or from a bank with a foreclosure, you are buying it from both of them, and they have to go back and forth and come to an agreement before you can really get all the way approved....or something like that. Anyway, if we want to be able to move into a house before September, we need to put an offer in like right now. We found an extended stay hotel that we could live in for a few months that wouldn't cost us our entire BAH, but I really don't want to live in a hotel that long, and not have free laundry facilities in my immediate vicinity. Anyway, the money for the ticket technically came out of the tax return money we had put into savings, so I am not letting it count against us, and we still haven't spent any of our February pay check. Maybe I will subtract it when I do the final math. Cash $277

Tuesday, February 28th:
Breakfast: Lucky Charms
Lunch: macaroni and cheese and toast
Dinner: Pork Steaks, rice and asparagus
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN! One day left. I think I will celebrate tomorrow by taking the kids on an absolutely free trip to the zoo. We will take a lunch, use our annual pass, and be home in time for naps. I still have more than a quarter tank of gas in the van, and that should be plenty to get us there and back. I have a doctor's appointment in the morning, so it will be a long day. Today, I finalized our grocery shopping list for next month, and am ready to go stock up for March. Cash: $277

21 February 2012

No Spend Challenege - Week 3

Wednesday, February 15th:
Breakfast: Pop Tarts and cereal (what's new?)
Lunch: homemade/kid made mini pizzas..and an egg salad sandwich for Brad
Dinner: Hamburger Helper and Brussels sprouts

We had a good day. I got a lot done around the house. The kids got some great outside play time with Brad when he got home. We got creative for lunch. This challenge is turning out to be about more than just pumping the savings account full of cash. We are effectively cleaning out our cupboards, which is something that most people should start doing a couple months before a big move anyway. I have had two packets of pizza crust mix in my pantry for months and months. I probably bought them only because I had a coupon or something, because I never make homemade pizza. We didn't have pizza sauce but we found a can of spaghetti sauce that we were NEVER going to use, left here by my sister about a year ago. We had shredded cheese in the fridge...and voila! Lunch. :) We also sold Brad's old futon today. He has had it since long before we ever met, and it has been living in our back yard as patio furniture. We got $75 for it which wasn't bad at all. I now have a little goal in my head to sell enough stuff before the end of the month to cover our bills that we paid, so we can cancel out all spending for the month, and ACTUALLY have spent NOTHING. Between the mattress and the futon we have made $175, which is the same as what we paid for Jocelyn's preschool tuition for the month. Now I just need to make $100 to cover the cell phone bill, $35 to cover the internet bill, $10 to cover the water delivery, and $8 to cover Netflix, and we will have actually spent $0 of our February pay. Off to collect things from around the house that we do not need! Cash envelope balance: $137 + $75 = $212

Thursday, February 16th:

Cinnamon Toast
Lunch: mac and cheese
Dinner: steak, rice, and asparagus

I made bread! And, it is good. I got the recipe from TheSimpleDollar.com . All it took was a packet of yeast ($0.65), 1 cup water ($0), 5 teaspoons of sugar ($0.02 based on a $2 5 pound bag), 1 teaspoon of salt (<$0.01), 3-4 cups of flour ($0.75 based on a $2 5 pound bag), 1/4 cup of milk ($0.08 based on a $5 gallon), and 5 teaspoons of melted butter/margarine ($0.10 based on a $0.77 for a pound of Blue Bonnet). I got 14 slices out of the loaf, which was two less than what was in the store bought loaves. We usually pay between $2.75 and $3.20 for the bread we like, and this loaf was super yummy for only $1.60. The bonus is that I didn't even pay for the flour, my sister left it here last time she came for a TDY. And, Melynda gave me three packets of yeast, because I have never bought yeast before. So this particular loaf only actually cost me about $0.30.

I also made a $0.30 frappuccino today! Woohoo! Brad went to Dave and Buster's today for a coworker/friend going away luncheon. He took $20 out of the envelope, and brought back $4! Go Brad! We are out of butter, eggs, and milk...So tomorrow we are going to have to spend a lot, but it should get us through at least to the next week
Envelope balance: $196 = $100 for the mattress. $75 for the futon, and $21 left of our original envelope cash from recycling in January.

Friday, February 17th:
Breakfast: Pancakes
Lunch: Tuna sandwiches
Dinner: Homeport...Lemon poppy seed chicken and rice, fresh fruit, rolls, and salad
We were going to get milk and eggs today, but didn't make it out of the house, Brad had the day off for a 4-day President's Day weekend, So, we just hung out at home as a family all day. It was nice. Then we went to Homeport to enjoy a very tasty dinner, a lesson on suffering for Christ, and some great fellowship. It was a good day. Balance: $196

Saturday, February 18th:
Breakfast: toast
Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly and mandarin oranges
Dinner: macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and green beans
I took our last $21 of our original envelope cash to the commissary today and got 3 gallons of milk ($4.70 each), 18 eggs ($1.68) and 3 pounds of butter ($0.77 each). With the surcharge, it came out to just over $19.00. So, we now have less than $2 of our original cash remaining, but a balance of $177. The milk is good until 5 March, but I am just hoping it lasts us until 29 February. I still have stuff to make more bread, and I really think we can do this with out spending that last $2 or more. This gets a little harder every day, when I find myself wanting Wendy's or Jamba Juice. But, as much as I would like to have those things, not getting them feels so good! I feel so in control! I have never before in my adult life, excluding basic training, gone this long without spending money on fast food. Though we did have fast food last week, it was free! And that was only one time this month, when we usually have it 3 or more times a week...YIKES! Even though we will start spending again in March, it will likely be a more controlled spending than we usually practice. We are going to start a daily log of every penny we spend, whether it be $0.50 for a soda at work, or $1.00 for fries at Wendy's on the way home from the zoo. I am loving how this financial accountability and self control are making me feel. NEVER thought I would be saying that! :) Cash: $177

Sunday, February 19th:

Breakfast: pop tarts
Lunch: Chicken Fried Steak, potatoes and corn
Dinner: Chicken and broccoli fettuccine alfredo
A couple weeks ago my friend Amanda asked me if I could make a quilt out of her old t-shirts. I was excited to take on this project. She brought me all the shirts at bible study on Friday night, and today I completed the 'quilted design part'. I have yet to sew the backing on, but this is what it looks like right now:

She had seen one on Etsy that she liked, but it was $150 plus two way shipping (shipping the shirts to the seamstress, and then shipping back the final product). That seemed just a little bit outrageous to both of us! Anyway, with me doing it, there is no shipping, and no ridiculous price! I had fun making it, and it only took me one weekend (I was watching TV with Brad during the kids' nap time while I did almost all of the measuring and cutting, so it's not like it took me away from other responsibilities). I haven't decided yet what an appropriate price would be, because I didn't pay for any materials (except thread that I already had), and I don't really know what my labor should be worth. So, I am just going to tell her that I don't expect any payment...but she can tip me if she wants (my right hand does hurt a little bit from the excessive scissor usage). :) I am feeling really great about our success so far in the no-spend category, but I also am proud of how I have been capitalizing on my "homemaking" skills to keep me busy and entertained in the house without spending anything. I have a bunch of diapers that need the elastic replaced, that have been sitting on my sewing desk for months. I will definitely tackle those this coming week. Cash Balance: $177

Monday, February 20th:
Breakfast: I had toast before I left the house at 0450 and I assume Brad and the kids had cereal or pop tarts
Lunch: grilled pork steaks and rice
Dinner: I let the kids have lucky charms (supermom), I made Brad an egg salad sandwich, and myself an omelet. I wanted a sandwich too, but there were only 2 pieces of bread left.

I had been wanting to run the Great Aloha Run again this year. I started getting emails about it a few months ago. I thought I had registered, but realized after we started our no-spend challenge that I actually hadn't registered for this race when I thought I did, but instead for a different one that is happening in March. Well, I ended up getting to do it for free instead, because a couple days ago Brad found out that his command had purchased a bunch of entries for personnel who wanted to participate. It turns out they over estimated the amount of people who would be interested in participating, and they had extra registration packets to get rid of. I had Brad grab two of them, and my friend Jill and I got to do it for free. :) Score. Tonight, I was feeling tired and lazy, so I fed the kids Lucky Charms for dinner...they were pretty excited about that! I made a bunch of egg salad to have in the fridge for Brad's sandwiches this week, and that is what Brad and I were going to have for dinner, but there were only two slices of bread left. So he had a sandwich, and I made myself an omelet. Then I made two more loaves of bread, this time with whole wheat flour that I had no clue was even in my pantry (hiding behind cake mix boxes). I am hoping those will get us through this last week to the end of the month, because I have no more yeast to make more, and we really don't want to spend the money to buy more. Anyway, we are almost 3/4 of the way there, and going strong! Cash $177

Tuesday, February 21st:
Breakfast: Blueberry muffins
Lunch: homemade mini pizzas for us, Brad took Sunday's leftover chicken fried steak
Dinner: Pork steaks, broccoli and stove top stuffing(cleaning out the cupboards)

I am officially out of Dr. Pepper. :( I drank my last can today, which means I have to survive the next 8 days with NO soda! Ack! I have decided that my first purchase on the 1st of March is going to be a $1 extra large Dr.Pepper from McDonalds. My lack of soft drink reminded me that my friend Stephanie brought over a bunch of recycling for us last week (and some yummy fresh veggies), because she was leaving the island for a while. We have a few cans and bottles from the past three weeks, and Brad brought a bag of cans and bottles home from work. Tomorrow, the kids and I will take them all in for some quick cash. :) I am not going to spend it on soda (even though that is what I want to do with it), but I am not going to feel badly about buying milk, eggs, or yeast, if the bread, milk and eggs we have now don't last to the end of the month. So far this month we have spent $73, and brought in close to $200 (plus whatever Amanda wants to give me for her quilt). If I find a way to make another $150 this week, we will have not spent a single penny of our February pay checks, because even the bills we paid on the first will be covered by the cash we brought in. I am going to list some more things on Craigslist tomorrow. I cannot tell you how amazing this feels. Not spending money has made me feel poor at times (like when I asked Melynda if she had any yeast), but when I look at the fact that we have an entire month of pay just sitting there untouched in Brad's checking account, I feel super rich. :) Just so you know, I do realize that mooching off friends is not an acceptable way to go a month without spending, so Melynda will be getting some yeast back next month. :) Cash: $177

One more week! Surprise Dr. Pepper deliveries are welcome. :)

18 February 2012

Your baby's shirt reflects your character

I once found a brand new David and Goliath onesie at a thrift store for $0.75. The front of it read, "I only cry when ugly people hold me." This was funny to me at the time, so I bought it (mostly because it still had the tags and was less than a dollar). When Sam was about a month old, he was wearing it as Brad's grandmother held him for the first time. Then Sam started to cry, and I think I might have really hurt her feelings. I felt like a complete idiot for being so unaware of how my stupid and rude sense of humor could affect someone else, and for allowing that situation to even happen.

Since then I have observed many children in different shirts with supposedly funny sayings on them. I realized that these phrases don't relate to the children at all because the kids don't buy their clothes, dress themselves, or even read. But, these "witty" shirts say a WHOLE lot about the parents. Sometimes I think that people put their kids in shirts with out realizing what it says about them as parents.

For example, I am not sure that moms who put their child in this onesie:

realize that they themselves might as well just be wearing this shirt:

Tonight I saw a photo of an adorable little girl, a little girl with a smart and tasteful mother, sporting a onesie that read:

This made me sad. BEING A MOM IS HARD. It is one of the hardest jobs out there. No other job comes with as much responsibility, stress, fluctuating emotions, decision making, guilt, fear, and second guessing. However, most people in any other job are totally open to tips, advice, opinions, and just general feedback about how to improve themselves. Why can't moms be that way? When did it become a good thing to be so close minded and start villainizing people for trying to share potentially helpful information? If someone tries to hurt your kid or suggests that you do mean and dangerous things to your kid, by all means react defensively. Most people just care about you and your kid and want to offer you suggestions about things that worked well for them because THEY WANT TO HELP...because they have been there and they know that nobody can really do this alone. Why scare people away? What if someone has some really important information that you are unaware of (think formula/toy/car seat/medicine recall), that would help your child...but is to afraid to say something because of your child's "cute" shirt? Are you willing to risk the well being of your child for the sake of your pride? REALLY? Sadly, I know too many moms who do this on one issue or another. "Thanks anyway, but I think I know what is best for MY kid." Do you? I don't! Not all the time, not about every issue!

If you are going to put your child in the onesie pictured above, you might as well just wear a t-shirt yourself that says, "I know everything already and I don't care what you think".

Give people a chance, if their intentions are harmless, and you disagree, then ignore their advice. The "mommy war" is what happens when you strike back with hurtful intentions...not when they approach you with good intentions. :)

15 February 2012

No Spend Challenge - Week 2

Happy Valentine's Day! Best Valentine's gifts ever...tasty dinner at home with no cards/gifts and no expectations...and focusing on our love by committing to make good financial decisions and never let money struggles become an issue that can negatively affect our marriage. We have reached the half way point in our challenge, and though we haven't struggled much up to this point, I am still very intimidated by the next two weeks. I feel like I did when I reached the half way point of the Honolulu Marathon..."Hey, this has been easy so far. We haven't stopped once, let's take a break to go to the bathroom...." BUT then, you just can't get back into the same groove as before, and of course the second 13 miles is way harder because you are tired from running the first 13 miles. I hope that is not how this goes. Another thing is also similar, however....my determination to finish strong. I know we can do this.

Anyway, here is a daily log of week two:

Wednesday, February 8th:

Breakfast: Toast
Lunch: kids had hot dogs and canned pineapple, I had last night’s left over chicken and curry
Dinner: tacos, using the lettuce and tomatoes up before they start to get yucky…but they still look good
Today, Jocelyn and I made her school valentines out of stuff we already had around the house (thanks pinterest). I did some laundry, and all three kids napped at the same time, so I got some really good bible time in. I spent some time in prayer about about the kids, and our marriage, and this whole challenge thing. I felt renewed in spirit, and self control..and also, I think, in the fact that this was a good idea. Jocelyn has been earning quarters every day that she eats all her lunch, takes a nap, eats all her dinner, AND keeps the baby jail picked up. So far this month she has earned 3 quarters (she’s not perfect). But, she has been asking questions about why we can’t go certain places or buy certain things this month, and she totally gets what we are going for. I told her that we can spend a little money here and a little money there, and end up with a bunch of little things we don’t really need…or we cannot spend any money for a while, and save up to get some great things that we actually need…like a car and a house. She told me that she wants to save her quarters to help buy a new house!!! I told her that mommy and daddy would take care of the house, and that she could spend her quarters on herself, but that it is more rewarding to get something bigger and more meaningful by being patient. She seemed to understand, and that made me happy. Anyway, we didn’t spend any money today, so the cash envelope balance is still $47. We will need milk tomorrow, though.

Thursday, February 9th:
Breakfast: Sam-poptart Jocelyn-pancakes, and cereal for mom and dad
Lunch: PB&J and mandarin oranges for the kids, Tuna sandwiches for mom and dad
Dinner: Grilled pork steaks, corn and rice
Today was TOUGH. We ran out of milk this morning, so I knew we needed to get some. It is over $6 at the mini mart near our house, so I went to the commissary to get it for $4.70 instead. I walked there with my friends Stephanie and Kristen. It was a 5 mile round trip, and we took my three kids and Kristen’s twin boys who are Sam’s age. The kids were all great the whole time. We walked past McDonalds, and the “Any Size Soft Drink for $1.00!” sign tempted me big time. Number one, I was saving at least a $1 on gas by walking to the commissary, and I am saving $1.50 by buying milk at the commissary instead of the mini mart. The whole time we were at the NEX/commissary, I was justifying that giant $1 Dr. Pepper I was going to get on the way home, BUT it didn’t happen…even if I had tried, Steph and Kristen would have stopped me. I am SO glad they were in the commissary with me, too! Strawberries were on sale for $2.99 a basket, and they are usually like $5.99 a basket. Blueberries were $2, usually $4.99. Juice was $2. Fruit snacks were $1. And there were a bunch of other deals begging me to justify them…but I walked out with ONLY what I went in for, two gallons of milk. We spent $10 on Milk… Cash in Envelope: $37 (it’s only the 9th, and we are half way through our cash-yikes-but we shouldn’t need more milk until at least the 15th, and that $20 for dinner with the homeport ladies was a big unexpected/unplanned chunk…so $37 should easily last us to March 1st)

Friday, February 10th:

Breakfast: FUNNEL CAKES!!!   
Lunch: Spaghetti-os and the last of the corn dog muffins Brad took leftovers from last night
Dinner: Home Port - Kalua pulled pork and rice, broccoli, salad and fruit
We walked to the mini mart today to get a red box movie, because I got an email with a code for a free rental.  That was the highlight of my day (besides the funnel cakes for breakfast, of course). I fell down the stairs with Carolyn this morning…she is a-ok, but I hurt all over and I think I broke my finger. I am not going to the doctor or anything, but it got me thinking about non-military people who attempt a no-spend challenge. If I break something, or need urgent care, we can still go the whole month without spending. For most people, it wouldn’t work that way, and that sucks. These kinds of things remind me of how thankful I am for the benefits and opportunities that are available to us as a military family. We really are SO blessed. Cash in envelope: $37

Saturday, February 11th:
Breakfast: Pancakes
Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwiches
Dinner: Grilled BBQ pork ribs, pasta roni and green beans
We bought a bag of fun size kit kats before our challenge started, and we put it in the freezer for when we were craving a little something sweet. Well, it’s only day eleven and those suckers have been long gone for a while now. Last night for bible study I was rummaging through the pantry trying to come up with something for a desert…I grabbed a box of jell-o instant banana pudding, a packet of dream whip, and stuff to make pie crust. 20 minutes later I had two dozen banana mousse mini tartlets. I was pretty proud of my contribution because we usually like to stop at Anna Miller’s and pay $15.99 for a fresh strawberry pie (yum). Anyway, tonight we were itching for something chocolate, but I used the last of the chocolate chips to make cookies last week. THEN, I found the ‘CandiQuick’ wanna-be baker’s chocolate that I bought for like a buck after Christmas just because I figured I could use it for something eventually (just another example of how we buy things all the time with no specific intended purpose—just because it was on sale). Well, I am glad that we had it. I was also glad that we had half a bag of pecan halves left over from holiday pie baking. Then, I remembered the jar of caramel that has been in the fridge for like a year from when I made caramel apple mini tartlets for Easter! Score. Behold:

I also made Brad some chocolate walnut clusters with the extra chocolate:

Yeah, so I made Brad take our red box movie (that we rented yesterday using a promotional code for a free rental – BREAKROOM- try it) back to the mini mart because I didn’t trust myself to not buy a candy bar and scarf the evidence on the way home. But, instead we made our own yumminess at home, and it only took about 10 minutes! Envelope cash: $137 (we sold my old mattress today, and we put the $100 in the envelope, but don’t plan on touching it this month-we’ll see how that goes)

Sunday, February 12th:
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Tuna sandwiches and macaroni and cheese
Dinner: Chicken Katsu, rice and corn

We are starting to run low on some things that I thought would last the whole month. I have been buying an extra loaf of bread every time I grocery shopped since November, and had six loaves frozen at the end of January. Somehow, we are down to only one, and it is only day 12. We were eating lunch out of the house so often, that we maybe went through a loaf a week. But now we are eating sandwiches so much more often that we go through bread super fast. We are also running low on juice, but thankfully I have two frozen apple juices in the freezer. We always half the juice with water, but we are still going through it faster than normal because we have been taking it easy on the milk. I am starting to get a little worried about that $37 lasting the whole month, but if we run out of certain things, we will just have to be more creative.:) I cut Brad's hair again tonight. I hope to get better at it so that he will let me continue to do it, and save us that $20-$30 a month. Cash envelope balance: $137

Monday, February 13th:

Breakfast: Cereal again :)
Lunch: PB&Js for me and the kids, and Brad took leftover Katsu and rice to work
Dinner: Pork loin, PastaRoni, and steamed bell peppers
The kids and I had a great day today (see previous blog). We made Valentines for Jocelyn's preschool class for tomorrow, we painted, we went to the pool, and we did some other free stuff. It just felt good to know that I don't have to spend money to keep them entertained. Jocelyn has been asking if we can go to the movies, or if we can go to Panda Express, and other stuff like that. I love that this lesson for myself and Brad is also a lesson for her. It's also eye opening to see what kind of kid we are raising when we tell her no for a month straight. So far she has been very understanding..."Oh yeah, that's right. We aren't spending any money. I forgot, Mom." <3 Anyway, a big expense is coming up this week because Brad has to go to a going away luncheon for a friend he works with. He is getting the same deal as me...$20 out of the cash envelope. Phew, we are going to be cutting it extremely close! As of now, cash envelope balance: $137

Tuesday, February 14th:
Breakfast: Pop tarts/cereal/oatmeal
Lunch: Burger King and Charley's!!!!
Dinner: A roast leg of lamb for Brad (which was supposed to be enough for dinner and his lunch tomorrow - 1.5 pounds - but he ate all of it tonight)...and cheeseburgers for me and the kids...and corn.
Okay, before you flip out about the lunch description...check these babies out:

I told Brad that I would bring lunch to him at work today because we didn't have left overs from last night for him to take, I didn't wake up early enough to prepare something for him to take, and he couldn't get out of work to come home for lunch. I surprised him with a chicken philly cheesesteak meal from Charley's, and he was like, "What? You caved?" Insert sly smile, "NOPE!" I have had these two "free combo meal" cards for a while, and was planning on using them half way through our challenge, kind of like a "hump day" deal, even though technically the half way point is tomorrow (Thanks a lot, leap year). It was a nice treat for the kids, too. We chose a #7 from Burger King for our free meal...the 9 piece chicken fries. However, there were 15 chicken fries in there! Bonus. Anyway, We are doing well so far, I just hope the next two weeks go by as fast as the last two did. We are running out of things that we usually stay stocked up on, and my baking urges have been depleting our butter supply faster than I anticipated. The main thing here, is that we haven't spent any money on eating out, toys, clothing, gas, luxuries, or entertainment, and we haven't felt the urge to. If we have to spend a little bit to get more bread, or juice, or q-tips, it shouldn't be that big of a deal...except that we are super competitive and we want to "win" our challenge. After Brad takes $20 out of the envelope for his going away luncheon on Thursday, we will be down to $17, and probably be needing milk and eggs that same day. I foresee us breaking into the $100 from the sale of our mattress, which would still not be spending any of our February pay checks...but would be going beyond our original plan. Staying positive...thinking of ways to be creative. Cash in envelope: $137

13 February 2012

...brought to you today by the letter P








Peanut butter and jelly






Pirate ship


Packing up





Potty training

Princess soap (+ Patootie)


Pretending ("Look, mom! I am a turtle!")







Penny pinching

Pork, Pasta, Peppers

Pork, Pasta, Peppers




Pecan clusters





Picking up




Pucker up



Publish :)

Perfect. :)