Sunday Cents

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Well, I had a lovely post about saving money all ready to go last night, and then it disappeared into the deep, dark interwebs, never to be heard from again.  I could have rewritten it, but I just didn’t feel up to it.  I figured I would talk about finances today, so I would just weave the two posts together.

I have been lucky enough to catch a few breaks this past week with saving money and the upcoming holidays.  Since I have some of the best friends ever, we have all decided that instead of giving gifts, we are all just going to get together and have a lunch date.  This will end up saving us about $75-$100, since I would have been spending about $15-$20 on 5 individuals.  I will instead have to just spend about $20 on a meal for myself.

Another way I have been able to save some money is by using our Pampers Rewards to get 50 free photo cards from Shutterfly.  If you are not familiar with Pampers Rewards, each Pampers item you buy (wipes and diapers) there is a code on it that you can enter online.  You then earn points that you can trade in for different items.  Each year I save them up and use them for our Christmas cards.  I also do want to address the issue of brand loyalty here.  I realize there are cheaper diapers out there, but we have not found any that fit Miss C as well as Pampers do.  Because of this, we have stuck with them.

Finally I am going to be able to cash in two of my rebate apps.  I have about $40 to cash in.  $20 will come in a check form, and the other $20 I will deposit into our Paypal account.  I don’t have this $40 earmarked for anything, but will probably use it for travel expenses or gift expenses when we need it.

Today I was able to *almost* stay on budget with our groceries.  I ended up going over by $0.31.  I think that is pretty good considering how expensive groceries have gotten recently.  I would have stayed on budget, but there were a few deals that were too good to pass up.  Here are my best ones:

Schick Disposable Razors (x2)
Original Cost: $8.49 (x2 = $16.98)
On Sale: $6.49 (x2 = $12.98)
e-Coupon: BOGO: -$6.49
Final Cost: $6.49
Total Savings: $10.49

3 lb Bags of Tyson Frozen Chicken Breasts (x2)
Original Cost: $12.99 (x2 = $25.98)
On Sale: $4.98 (x2 = $9.96)
Final Cost: $9.96
Total Savings: $16.02

Cinnamon Toast Crunch (x2)
Original Cost: $3.19 (x2 = $6.38)
On Sale: $2.99 (x2 = 5.98)
Super Deal: Buy 2, save $3.00
Final Cost: $2.98
Total Savings: $3.40

I also got a couple of other good deals.  Milk was on sale 2/$5.  Milk is usually $3.54 each, so I saved $2.08.  Not too bad, when you consider we go through about 2 gallons a week around here.  I was also able to stack some sales and e-coupons with rebates from my apps.  I did this with trash bags and orange juice.  Before rebates I ended up saving $2.58, then I got an additional $2.00 from iBotta.  Not too shabby!

I have to say that I was pretty darn proud of being so close to staying under budget!  The bags of chicken were not on my list, but everything else was.  If I wouldn’t have bought those, then I would have been under budget.  But honestly, I couldn’t pass up a savings of over $15.00 on something that we will definitely use.  Thank goodness for our deep freeze in the basement!  We now have 3 bags of frozen chicken, all bought on sale.  We shouldn’t have to buy chicken any time soon!

Did you find any good deals today?

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Today has not gone as planned at all.  I really should have just stayed in bed all day. (Though it is not really an option around here.)

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This guy has the right idea!

This morning I woke up with pretty much no voice.  What little voice I have was quite squeaky and gravelly.  Not really a pleasant sound at all.  Despite the lack of voice, I decided to go for a run, as it was in the 50s today and I couldn’t turn that down.  I went about 3 miles (my furthest yet!).  This was the point I probably should have gone back to bed.

I had planned out my day, as I always do, but it did not go as planned.  After my run, I showered and then felt like doing NOTHING!  I had planned to clean the kitchen, do laundry, basically get things done around here.  I did get a load of laundry done this morning, but beyond that I didn’t do anything else.  Hubs let me take a nap, while e kept the little on entertained.  Once I got up, I made lunch and then headed back to the couch.

I did get to enjoy a lovely coffee date with a dear friend.  It was definitely overdue and needed!  We were able to sit and chat for about an hour and a half.  Once we were done, I headed home and did some more laundry.

Then I made 3, yes 3 dinners!  The first dinner attempt was a potato soup recipe I got off Pinterest.  It ended up burning.  Not good at all!  We can still smell the burning smell, even though we have the fan going and some candles burning.  Once I finally made the call that dinner was a fail, we had a simple back-up of mac and cheese and hotdogs.  Not the healthiest at all, but it was easy and something that everyone would eat.  That was dinner #2.  Dinner 3 was a meal that I prepared for a friend who is on bed rest currently.  She has been on bed rest for over 2 months, and I have been trying to prepare a meal for her at least once a month.  I got this one prepared and in the fridge to take tomorrow.  Then I spent 30 minutes scrubbing out my burned pot.  It took a lot of elbow grease, but it got done and is clean!

I eventually got the kitchen cleaned up and started making brownies for my friend.  They just came out of the oven, and now I am about ready for bed.  I actually think I will grab something to eat, as I did not eat much for our dinner (Dinner #2, if you are keeping up).

I am hoping that my voice is back tomorrow, as teaching 2nd graders without a voice is as fun as it sounds.  I am also hoping my motivation is back and I actually get some things done tomorrow evening.

Wish me luck!

(image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)

Habits

It is said that it takes 21 days to build a habit.  I am not sure the exact science behind it, but it sounds good.

When I think about the fact that it only takes about 3 weeks to make a change stick, it makes me wonder why I haven’t had more success with my goals.  It seems a little sad that I haven’t been able to stick with some of my goals for a mere 3 weeks.

I feel like this past month has been my most successful overall.  I have stuck with my two main fitness goals and have been sticking to our budget as well.  There are parts of my life that feel out of control right now, so I think that by focusing on these goals, I feel more in control of things.

I am honestly shocked at how quickly I have seen and felt changes going on.  One big change has been my mental state.  This is usually the time of year that I start to feel depressed and down, but I haven’t been feeling that at all!  I have been relatively positive and have had a pretty good outlook on everything.  I know that exercise has a big impact on your mental well-being, as does being outside.

Another big change has been physical.  I have started to see some changes in my body because of working out.  I am starting to see some definition in my stomach and my arms.  I feel I look better in jeans now.  Other physical changes are the fact that I can run farther than I have in a long time.  I know my heart is happier, and my lungs are getting stronger.  I think back to 6 weeks ago when I could barely do 60 second intervals of running.  Now I am running almost 10 minutes in a row.  To seasoned runners, I know that seems like nothing, but for a non-runner like me, it feels amazing!

Another big change is that I look forward to my runs (most of the time).  I couldn’t wait to go running this morning.  It was “warmer” than it has been, and I had such a terrible run on Monday, that I was antsy to get out and get going this morning.  I NEVER thought I would enjoy running.  I NEVER thought I would consider myself a runner.  I NEVER thought I would voluntarily wake up early to go running.  I NEVER thought I would be strong enough to run in frigid temperatures.  These are things that are so far from my normal, that it feels strange to think this way.  Honestly, if I can start running and stick to it, anyone can.

Sticking to these health goals has helped me realize that I can be successful.  It has helped me realize I am strong.

Tired

Today I am tired.  I think I could classify it as exhausted, actually.

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This past week it seems as though the munchkin has started having nightmares.  Sometimes she wakes up from them, but other times she just cries and rolls around in her crib.  No matter what, I get woken up from my peaceful sleep.  I think that since this has happened multiple nights this past week, my body is finally starting to feel weary.

I typically get up pretty easily in the morning, but the past two mornings I have had to drag myself out of bed.  This morning wasn’t quite as bad, but on Monday morning, I set my alarm for 4:45 so I could run.  I actually reset my alarm and was so close to skipping my run.  I finally decided that the 45 minutes of lying in bed would not be as beneficial as the 30 minutes of running I would do.

Tomorrow morning is another running morning.  Another morning of being awoken at 4:45.  Another frigid morning of being pulled by Rose as I run.  These days of feeling tired make the week drag on.  I hope to be in bed by 8:30 tonight and zonked out by 9:00.  That is not completely unreasonable for me.  Hopefully by the end of the week I will be back to my typical schedule and not feeling so exhausted.

I also hope that I will have something more interesting for you to read after a full night’s sleep.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Chri$tma$

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This year we have been putting aside $75 a month for Christmas expenditures.  We knew we would be traveling over the holiday season, so we were prepared for spending money on things such as gas, food, and hotel expenses.  We figured this amount would be plenty to cover everything that was needed.  I also have an extra $250 coming in December just for additional travel expenses.

I still think it will be, but it is going to be close.  It is amazing how the list of names grows each year.  I try to limit gift amounts to about $20 a person, but I honestly think that is going to be too much for this year.  I may have to lower it to around $10 or $15 a person.  We aren’t even buying for our siblings or extended family members.

Here is the breakdown of how our money is budgeted at this point:

My parents: $75
Hubs parents: $50
Nieces/nephews (8): $160
Friends (6 that I counted so far): $120
Total: $405

If I lower the nieces/nephews to $15 and the friends to $15, that lowers the total down to $335.  I still think that is outrageous for gifts!  The sad thing is that you can’t find much worthwhile for $15 anymore.

I am also aware that random people end up giving gifts, so there always seem to be more gifts to buy than you expected.

After getting everyone else out of the way, that leaves about $100 for our own daughter.  I know this is more than enough, especially since she will be receiving many gifts from family members.  This is the last big Christmas with Hubs’ family, so I am not sure what holidays will look like from here on out.  Aside from the hotel expense (~$215), I think the amount will stay about the same.

 All I know is that I am happy we have been setting aside money every month.  I can’t imagine getting to this time of year and not knowing where money for the holidays is going to come from.

How do you handle expenses during the holiday season?

Sunday Cents

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Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Last week I started a No Spend Challenge.  Here is the post in case you were wanting to know more information about it.

I have done pretty well, except I did buy a couple things at the grocery store today simply because I had coupons.  I know that was one of the rules on my challenge, but hear me out.  The two coupons I used were buy one, get one free coupons (one for lotion, the other for shampoo/conditioner).  These coupons expired before my challenge would be over.  These are also two toiletry items that I know I am going to need in the next few weeks .  By getting these items now and using the buy one, get one free coupons, I saved $11.28 ($6.49 for the lotion and $4.79 for the shampoo/conditioner).  I felt that these coupons were worth using before they expired, especially since they are items that will be used and that will be needed in the near future.  I also saved an additional $1.00 with a store coupon I had (spend $3 on hair care items, and save $1).

This week my grocery store was having their mega savings event: Buy 10 items and save $5.00.  Luckily I had 10 specified items already on my list, and didn’t  have to buy anything additional to get my savings!

There were quite a few good deals this week, and I was able to combine some coupons to make them even better!  They were having a buy one, get one free deal on vitamins, and I had a coupon for $2 off 2 bottles of vitamins.  I ended up getting a bottle of multivitamins and a bottle of fish oil supplements.  Originally it would have been $20.28.  With the BOGO deal and my coupon, I ended up spending just $8.13!  Not too bad at all!

Another good deal was frozen veggies.  I typically stick to the veggies that are 4/$5.00 as some of the other choices are a bit pricier.  This week though, the ones that are typically $3.19 (mixed veggies with asparagus, and broccoli florets) were on sale for $1.99.  They were also part of the mega savings deal, so an additional $0.50 off each.  That brought each bag down to $1.49 each.  A savings of over 50%!  I also had a store coupon for $3.00 off a $15.00 purchase in the frozen foods section.  After stocking up on frozen veggies and getting some frozen bread, I was able to use this coupon as well!

Overall, I would say I stuck to my no-spend challenge pretty well.  I did buy a couple items that were not immediate needs, but are needs down the road.  I also feel good with those purchases, considering how much I saved by using the coupons instead of until later and not getting the opportunity to use them.

This past week has been a success as far as my no-spend challenge.  Aside from groceries this weekend, I have stuck to it pretty well.  I did buy some coffee with my MAD money, but that falls under the rules, so it is ok.  We did buy tires for Hubs’ car, which was an expected expense.  I think the main thing that will keep me successful is staying out of stores that I don’t need to be in (i.e. Target).  I still have a little over a week to go, so I am not in the clear yet, but I do think I will be able to make it!

Mid-Month Check-in

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Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

It is mid-November, which seems very hard to believe!  I feel like we just had Halloween.  I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is in less than 2 weeks!  Time is flying!

I thought I would just stop by to do a quick goals check-in for the month.

Finances

Balance checkbook each evening- I would give myself a C.  I have done this pretty regularly, but not each evening.  In fact, there are many days that we don’t spend anything, so there is nothing to do.  I did get this done tonight, considering we bought tires today and I needed to adjust our budget because of that.
Put $150  into savings (not including Christmas savings and vet savings)- Done!  I put right around $175. Our savings will stay the same for now.  I thought I would have to transfer some for the tires, but because of how our paydays fall, I won’t have to.  Instead, I just won’t be able to put in the big chunk that I thought I was going to be able to at the beginning of December.  

Marriage

One date night/afternoon this month- Hasn’t happened, and we haven’t really talked about it.  Need to get on this one!

Family

Complete Ali Edwards “Week in the Life” Challenge – I am planning on doing this the week of Thanksgiving.  It seemed like a decently interesting week compared to all of my other weeks.

Health

Continue Couch to 5K program- I am doing awesome with this!  I ran this morning, despite the cold and threat of snow!
Complete Tone Up For Turkey Challenge (focus on guns, buns, and abs)- Still rocking this one too!  I haven’t missed a day!
Drink 4 cups of water a day- I am terrible about tracking this one.  I drink water throughout the day, but have no idea how much I am drinking.
Limit sugar intake- I had been doing pretty well with this, until today.  Today was not a good day as far as my sugar intake.  I hope to get back on the bandwagon tomorrow.  I try to limit myself to one treat a day (be it a coffee drink, small candy bar, etc.)

Recreation

Blog 5x a week- I have not been as consistent as I would like.  I try to carve out time in the evenings, but I am pretty tired.
Finish reading the book I started last month- Haven’t even looked at it.
Daily, simple journaling in my planner- I haven’t done the journaling i set out to do, but I did start a gratitude journal earlier this week.  Today is day #5, and it is going well so far.

Home

Start cleaning schedule and keep up with it- Completely forgot about this goal.
Stay on top of laundry for the month- I got all caught up on laundry last weekend.  I did get 2 loads done today and hope to get 2 more done tomorrow.  At that point, I will be caught up again!  I would like to try and do 1 load every other day.  I feel like that is manageable and will help me keep up with it.

So, there are some good things with my goals!  I am actually feeling successful about many of them!  It is a great feeling to actually make and stick to my goals!  It rarely happens!

How are your goals going this month?

Needs Vs. Wants

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Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Needs and wants are a very basic economic concept that are introduced even as early as first grade.  Here are some basic needs:

Love
Food
Shelter
Water
Clothing

Anything beyond that is a want.

I want to bring this up because twice on social media this week I have posted something that has nothing to do with buying anything.  These two posts received comments from well-meaning friends who told me I “needed” a new something or the other.  One was a kitchen utensil, that undoubtedly would make my life easier.  I do not NEED this item though.

The other one was a piece of exercise equipment.  This would make running much more bearable during the winter, but again, I do not NEED this item, but the moment I step out into the cold, I definitely WANT this item.

I realize that these friends were not telling me to run out and buy either of these items immediately.  I just think it is interesting that my original posts were not focused on buying anything or wanting anything.  My friends just felt that my life would benefit from these two items, which it probably would.

I am not writing this post to single out my friends or shame those who buy things to make their lives easier (you are talking to the girl who who was just researching items that would make my dog’s life easier- boots for Rose to wear when we run in the cold).  I am writing this post because I find it interesting that we tend to steer towards the word “need” when talking about buying a convenience item.  Convenience is such a high priority in our lives these days, that the moment something takes more than a few seconds, we are immediately seeking a new item to help speed up the process or are trying to find new way to make things go quicker.

Convenience may be good in some situations, but the two situations that received the comments this week, I think I would prefer to complete the tasks the old, boring way.  I like prepping my food and getting my hands dirty in the kitchen.  The kitchen utensil would take a lot of this out of it.  I also don’t run just for running sake.  I do it for the fresh air, the sunshine (when I run in the afternoons), and the chance to get Rose outside too.  The exercise equipment would take those three things away from me.  I think for now I am going to stick to my old ways.

More than anything though, this was all eyeopening to me.  I wonder how many times I use the word “need” when telling someone about a product or item that they should try.  Do I ever really think that they truly need it?  When did need and want become interchangeable?  Instead I am going to focus on telling someone that maybe they should “try” a new item or give a recommendation without using the word “need.”  I think it will be harder than I expect.

Ouch!

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(Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)

If you have been following this blog, you know that last month we made the final payment on Hubs’ car!  Woo-hoo!  I knew that this month we would use the money we weren’t spending on his car payment to buy him new tires.  The tires are desperately needed.  I called and got an appointment to get them put on, along with an oil change, on Saturday.  I talked with the guy for a while trying to figure out the best tires for our use.  Right now Hubs’ car is the one that we use when we travel.  It is bigger and newer than mine.  We tend to make at least one long trip once or twice a year (at least 8 hours in the car one way).

After discussing with the nice Midas man, we decided on some mid-grade tires that come with a 40K mile warranty.  We could have chosen cheaper tires, or even more expensive tires, but these seemed the best bet for what we needed.  We also realize that with the cold coming, we need these tires sooner rather than later.

In my mind I felt good about our financial decisions.  I had a little over $500 earmarked for these tires, and figured we would be fine.

Boy was I wrong!  Once everything gets done, it is going to be right around $1,000 for new tires, balancing, alignment, and the oil change.  Ouch!

I am going to have to look at our budget a bit closer, but I know that we have at least $675 that we could use without really interrupting our budget much ($500 set aside, and $125 from 2 student  loans that we had paid ahead on and technically do not have anything due this month, and $50 that is put in for car tag renewals each month.  I overestimate this deposit, so I feel comfortable skipping a month).  In our handy-dandy envelopes, we have another $55 cash for car repairs that can be utilized.  That brings us up to $730.  Unfortunately I think the rest of it will have to come out of our savings.  Boo!

Looking ahead at December, if we stick to our budget, though, (and I maintain the No-Spend Challenge) we should be able to recoup that lost amount by December 6th and then we would be back on track.  Let’s just hope my calculations for my budget are correct.

Do you have any big, not fun expenses coming up?

On another note, I would like to extend my thanks for the outpouring of love and support from my post yesterday.  I hate that other people struggle with the same things I wrote about, but it also made me feel a bit more normal.  I have gotten some great ideas and encouragement as a result of this little blog, and I can’t thank you enough!  My readers are the best!

Changing Your Mindset

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By nature I am not a positive, optimistic, joyful, thankful person.  It truly is something I have to work on and concentrate on.  I have tried very hard to change my mindset, and honestly it has to be one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do.  I have failed at many goals I have set for myself, but being a positive thinker is one that I can barely get through one day successfully.

Lately I have been struggling with being content with my life.  I think my spending has reflected that, as I have bought things that I did not need.  I struggle with being content with what I have.  I think this is why I constantly set goals for myself.  I can tell that exercising has helped tremendously with my attitude and emotions, but it still is not enough.

About 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with depression.  That was a very dark time in my life, but with the proper medication, I was able to come out of it.  I have been off medication for about 4 years now, but still find that winter is a struggle for me.  I do believe I have SAD, which I am hoping to combat with my health choices and lifestyle changes I am trying to put in place now.

I think the hardest part of what I deal with emotionally is not just being joyful with my own life, but not being able to share in the joy of others.  Because I struggle with being content in my life, when I see others get what something that I would like, I have a hard time sharing in that joy.  I become bitter and jealous, and I hate the way I feel.  When I see others succeed, instead of feeling happy for them, I instead focus on my shortcomings and why I am not succeeding in the same areas.

When I look at my life, I realize that the number of things that I have to be thankful for are so beyond what I could imagine.  I realize that the struggles that I face on a daily basis are nothing compared to what others are going through.  I realize that when someone gets something that I would like, I don’t know the struggle that they went through to get it.  I realize that I have nothing to complain about.

… and yet I do complain.  I really need to work on cultivating a thankful heart and a positive mindset.  I don’t think there is a really a goal that I can attach to it.  I want to move beyond just being thankful for what I have in my life and move to a mindset of truly sharing in the joys of others.  Isn’t that what life should really be about?  Sharing in the joys of each other?  Instead of harboring these dark feelings, shouldn’t I be spreading joy like it’s my job?

I am not sure how to start this journey.  I don’t think there is a universal path for everyone to take, but I do want to make this change inside.  I have been working so hard on the outside, that it’s time to focus on the inside as well.

For starters, I want to hear from you.  What is some of the best news that you have received lately?   I would like to share in your joy!