Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Week Eight of the Spending Freeze Challenge

My husband and I have set out on a mission to change our financial future.  It all began when a mix-up with the mortgage company caused an additional probe into our finances and we were turned down for the mortgage... a week before we were scheduled to close.

We've fixed our end of the problem, saved again for the earnest money, enrolled and began taking classes for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and are now just waiting.  Praying.

Some habits die hard, but my will is even more stubborn.

We spent $104.72 on groceries for the last week. 

My seasonal job is over and the two new businesses I have started will take a while to take off.

Hubby has picked up overtime to help us meet our bare minimum needs without dipping into savings.

Last week I spent money on our youngest son's birthday party.  He had been asking to go to Chuck E Cheese for his birthday.  I looked into the party package and it was way above our limit.  So, I simplified.

The first thing I got rid of was the goodie bags filled with toys that will break and not hold children's interest for very long.  I figured the prizes the children would get from the tickets they earned could easily take the traditional goody bag's place.  I invested $2.38 in bags, brought my own sharpie and created a new tradition.

We cut our guest list way down.  It meant not inviting all of MY friends but my now 3 year old had a blast with the 5 of his friends that came.

I printed off coupons from their website, remembered to bring them and remembered to use them.

I drank water.  I know, sounds kind of silly.  What's $2?  Well, it's $2 and if you add it with the little bit I saved here and the money I saved there, the total saved or not spent in this case, can be a lot.

Here's some info on the two businesses I have started and the blog post that inspired me to question my beliefs and give me strength to think outside the box.

The Woman Who Fears the Lord #7

My Simply Fun Website

Daly Photography Facebook Page

Monday, October 28, 2013

Weekly Goals: October 28, 2013

Last week I felt a little like I had ADHD. 
I think it comes with the role of parenting two young active boys, trying to be an involved and caring wife and starting two new businesses.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
Last weeks goals and the progress I made.
Weekly Goals: October 21, 2013
1) Read...  I read with the boys but did no personal reading.
2) Knit... I got two sections of a scarf done.
3) Commission Charts for Boys... Done.
4) Save, Spend, Give Jars... Not completed.
5) Try one New Recipe... Done 
6) Make Laundry Soap... Done
7) Write Down Goals for Extra Money... Done
8) Walk... Done
Weekly Goals: October 28, 2013
1) Write down an outline for balancing children's activities, housework, blogging and business goals.
2)  Save, give and spend jars.
3) Walk
4) Read
5) Knit
6) Organize Liam's 2 year old photos.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekly Goals, October 21, 2013

To say I got slightly off track on last week's goals is putting it lightly.  When you see what I got done on my list, you may think that I sat around eating bonbons and watching soap operas all day.  (Old family joke.)  I felt like it was a productive week until I came back to my list...

Weekly Goals- October 14, 2013
1) Pick Up Yarn For Christmas Gifts and Scarf Order  Check
Home Management
1) Make Liam's Costume  Check
2) Make Laundry Soap  Thought I had the soap and when I went to do it, realized I did not.  I had already been to the store that day and WAS NOT going back.  Have I mentioned that I don't like shopping????
3) Make Chocolate Syrup  Check
1) Bulletin Board for Children's Goals, Memory Verse, Chore List and Calendar  Worked on, but not completed
2) Research Pumpkins, Take a Trip to the Pumpkin Patch and Carve Jack-o-lanterns  Got sidetracked with life and the field trip we had planned got rained out.  :-(
3) Morning Devotions  Looking for a good devotion book
4) Go For Walk x 3  Once
5) Spend, Save and Give Jars  Undone
1) Go For A Walk While Husband Can Watch the Boys x 2  Undone
2) Begin reading "The Ministry of Motherhood"  Undone
1) Complete Home Work for Dave Ramsey Class  Undone
2) Set Goals for How To Use Extra Money  Undone
I am not a goal reaching failure.  I am not a goal reaching failure. 
I am not a goal reaching failure. 
Okay, new week and new plans.  Simplified
1) Read
2) Knit
3) Commission Charts for Boys
4) Save, Spend, Give Jars
5) Try one New Recipe
6) Make Laundry Soap
7) Write Down Goals for Extra Money
8) Walk
As I tucked the boys into bed tonight, Matt asked if we could do one more thing.  My answer was no, because it was late.  Then I said "One day we'll get our routine together and things will run like a well oiled machine.  But, today is not that day."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week Seven of the Spending Freeze Challenge

We met a major goal this week.  We now have enough saved to put the earnest money down for a house.  Plus, we have extra money.
Let me tell you a little secret about myself.
When I do things, it's typically all or nothing.
A clean and organized home or a messy, disorganized one.
Eliminating a certain food or drink from my diet or just not caring at all.
Not spending anytime on the computer or constantly checking facebook.
Stay home all the time or plan so many things, I'm never there.
Spending no money at all whatsoever or purchasing everything we want and need.
Which brings me back to the money we've saved and continue to save.
I'm a teeny tiny bit controlling when it comes to our money.
Easy for me when we have to squeeze every single dollar
out of our budget to reach our goal, but what then?
What now?
(and breathe)
I'm going to sit down with my husband so we can discuss what our new goal is.
My ideas so far are to put money aside for the emergency fund, moving expenses (fingers are crossed) and a frugal Christmas.
We'll need money for all these things but I would like to plan with my husband on them.
That way, we can reach the goals, have a little wiggle room and keep each other accountable.
Last week I went way over budget for our groceries, spending $127.09 instead $100 or less.
On a good note, we didn't run out of food.
Here are a couple of things I did to save money last week on the things we needed:
I shopped at goodwill to make the boys costumes.  My sister had most of the key pieces I needed for Matt's costume and the only thing I paid retail for were his glasses.
It cost me less than $21 to make and put together both costumes.
I needed yarn for a knitting project and so I used the 40% off coupon for one of the items.
Combining trips and staying home helped me get through this week
without needing to put gas in my van.
We met friends at Texas Roadhouse an evening this last week.  To save money, we ate dinner at home and then just got drinks, a snack and dessert at the restaurant.
Instead of saying no to everything, I'm trying to choose where our money will go.
It's an unfamiliar concept, but I think it just may work.

Follow this link to read about our challenge from the beginning and other frugal ideas:
Frugal Living

Daly Photography- My first Official Photo Shoot

I took my two boys out to the riverwalk to get some pictures for my photography business.  I explained what my plan was on our ride over to the river walk and Matthew, age 7, asked if he could start a business of his own.  I like the idea of him starting a business, but have no ideas on what would be appropriate for him.  For now, I asked him to let me get my businesses going and see where we are in a few months. 
Here are a few of the pictures from yesterday's photo shoot.

Visit my facebook page to view the entire album.  Be sure to like my page while you're there!

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Woman Who Fears the Lord #11

The Woman Who Fears the Lord #11
A Study of Proverbs 31
Verse 20
"She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy."
Much has changed since this verse was written.  I imagine Mrs. Proverbs inviting needy strangers into her home to take shelter from the elements, eat a home cooked meal or lay their head down on a soft surface.  I wonder if she stopped and assisted people when she journeyed through town to take care of business or run errands.
Did they have homeless shelters back then?
A local food pantry?
I'm sure if Mrs. Proverbs was here in the 21st century, she would volunteer to help whenever and wherever she could.
I have a friend who does this.  This verse reminds me of her.  A true Proverbs 31 woman.
But, that's not me.
I'm so busy and caught up in my own life, I don't even think about volunteering to help.
I just don't think I'm very good at opening my arms to the poor or extending my hands to those in need and I wonder how many times I have let the chance to help slip away because I was too scared or too busy.
A few months ago, I had a woman approach me in the parking lot as I was loading groceries into my mini-van.  She had a boy that was about 4 years old with her.  The woman asked if I had a couple of dollars so she could buy her son some hotdogs. 
I reacted automatically and told her that I was sorry but I don't carry cash.  She and her son walked away.
I finished putting the groceries in my van, thinking about this woman and the small child.
Waves of doubt and criticism flooded my mind...
She was probably going to rob me, or use the money to buy alcohol or drugs.
She should plan how to use her food stamps more wisely.
She should find a food pantry or other resource to help her so she can get food on a regular basis.
She should get a job.
I sat in my van and tried to get this woman and her child off my mind.
Then I remembered the extra package of hotdogs I had just bought.  It hadn't been on my list and we could easily live without it.
Hot dogs aren't very healthy.  The child would need something else.
I had bought two bunches of bananas.
Surely we could live with just one bunch.
I put my van into drive and found the woman across the street, walking towards another store with her son.
I rolled down my window and called to her.  She turned and I said that I had some extra hotdogs and bananas that she could have.  I handed her the bag and she thanked me.  As I drove away, she and her son were walking away from the store and I heard her say "Look.  She gave us bananas.  Your favorite."
I didn't change the world and I doubt that I changed their lives.  I did, however, take advantage of an opportunity to help someone in need.
I haven't had another chance to help someone in a memorable way since then.
As I go throughout my daily routine, this verse can remind me to keep my eyes, and my heart, open to people in need.
For more posts about Proverbs 31, click on the following link: Proverbs 31

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Time for Healing

Several weeks ago I decided that I needed help because I was struggling with depression.  My husband's insurance allows for 8 free counseling sessions per year and hoping to avoid needing antidepressants, I took this route.
The counselor I was directed to has been a God send.  She has a sense of humor, knowledge, wisdom and experience.  After mentioning spiritual aspects of my life to her, she briefly mentioned that she strongly believes that humans have spiritual needs and that she had grown up a daughter of a minister, too.
I've been feeling much better since my work season ended and questioned the value of continuing with the sessions.  I decided to continue going until I was positive that I had gotten what I needed.
At the start of our last session, she began to show me some tips on time management and decreasing stress when our conversation took a sharp U-turn. 
I mentioned that I avoid things; making phone calls, trying something new, group settings, and although not a current issue, paying bills.
She made me pin point my top item and I quickly said, making phone calls.  I love texting but there are times when conversations totally drain me and so, I avoid them.
I guess this is not a healthy habit because we talked about it for a long time.
She left me with two goals.
Stop isolating myself and find a way to spend regular time with a friend or friends without distractions. 
As in, no children.
Work on being assertive in my communication.
I have value, good ideas, and something to contribute. 
Communicating my dreams, wants and needs is not a burden to others.
I'm going to perfectly honest.  I am very uncomfortable with these goals.  They make sense and I would totally recommend others do these things... but myself?  That is going to be hard.
I left, unsure of how I felt.
Then some random things happened, making me feel like God is encouraging me to pursue healing in this area.
As I write this blog post, I question my sanity.  I should deal with my depression and issues behind closed doors.  I should not air my dirty laundry on the internet.  I should put a smile on my face and pretend that I am all put together.
Yet, maybe.  Just maybe, there is someone out there who needs to know that they're not alone.  Someone who needs to know that there is nothing wrong with you if you need help.  That it is not a disconnect from God.
It can be a source of healing, a time where you grow closer to Him and a season when you become a stronger person.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Daly Photography

Here's a great big leap of faith that completely throws me outside of my comfort zone.  I've been thinking about starting a casual photography business for over a year.  With my experience with my own children and other people's children, I know that I can take great photos.  Candid shots are my favorite and I'm going to focus on taking pictures of children and families.
It's what I'm doing to plan ahead.
Plan ahead for an income to replace my full time seasonal job. 
It's only one of my many ideas and autumn seems like a good time to start.
If you're ever on facebook, please like my business page.
If you're ever in Northern Indiana, contact me for an appointment. 

Monster Cookies

My little monsters and I made these yummy cookies the other day.  We ate some, shared some and froze some.  It makes quite a few cookies so be prepared.  The recipe is gluten free if you're needing to keep track. 
Aunt Barb's Monster Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
*1/2 cup margarine, softened
3 beaten eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups of peanut butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal
2 cups chocolate chips
10 ounces of M&M's
Cream brown sugar, white sugar and margarine until fluffy.
Add eggs, peanut butter and vanilla and mix well.
Add baking soda and oatmeal and mix well.
Fold in chocolate chips and M&M's.
Shape into balls of desired size and place on ungreased pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.
Let stand 2 minutes before removing on pan.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Weekly Goals- October 14, 2013

It was my first official week on layoff status.  Being a stay-at-home homeschooling mom and wife is my most favorite role in life but I'm trying to give myself a little time to re-adjust.  I went from working 45-60 hours a week, having a job description to follow and people who needed reports, to just me.  Well, me, my husband, our seven year old and our two/almost three year old. 

Giving myself a little grace as we all transition into this season is really important.

 It takes time to slow down, enjoy things more deeply and get into a comfortable routine.

Last week's goals and the progress I made on them...

Weekly Goals- October 7, 2013

1) Pick Up Yarn For Christmas Gifts and Scarf Order  Not Completed
2) Post Office  Completed thanks to my wonderful neighbor and the handy little device called usps.com.
1) Set Up Writing Center  Done
2) Bulletin Board for Children's Goals, Memory Verse, Chore List and Calendar  Started
3) Leaf Project  Done
4) Morning Devotions  Attempted.  Just need to find our groove.
5) Go For Walk x 3  Done
1) Go For A Walk While Husband Can Watch the Boys x 2  Done
2) Begin reading "The Ministry of Motherhood"  Did not start yet
1) Complete Home Work for Dave Ramsey Class  Done
2) Set Goals for How To Use Extra Money  Not completed
Leaf Project,
Observing, Discussing, Sorting, Classifying,  and Identifying.

Weekly Goals- October 14, 2013
1) Pick Up Yarn For Christmas Gifts and Scarf Order
Home Management
1) Make Liam's Costume
2) Make Laundry Soap
3) Make Chocolate Syrup
1) Bulletin Board for Children's Goals, Memory Verse, Chore List and Calendar
2) Research Pumpkins, Take a Trip to the Pumpkin Patch and Carve Jack-o-lanterns
3) Morning Devotions
4) Go For Walk x 3
5) Spend, Save and Give Jars
1) Go For A Walk While Husband Can Watch the Boys x 2
2) Begin reading "The Ministry of Motherhood"
1) Complete Home Work for Dave Ramsey Class
2) Set Goals for How To Use Extra Money

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week Six of the Spending Freeze Challenge

This was my first week off from work and in order to follow along with our Spending Freeze, I limited any activities that would involve spending money.

Here's a recap of our week...

I spent $96.01 on groceries and we totally ran out of food.  With me no longer eating at work and the boys not eating a majority of their meals at childcare, we just plain ran out.  I'm going to have to adjust some things and possibly put a little more money towards groceries. 

I read about people who spend $50 on average on weekly groceries for a family of four.  It makes me wonder, how do they do that?

The boys and I walked to a neighbor's home for a play-date, went on several walks, packed drinks and snacks for soccer practice and combined a trip to the library with grocery shopping.

An unschooling group that we are a part of organized a game day at a local coffee house.  It was a little bit of a drive but other than gas, didn't cost me anything.  Matthew and Liam chose to spend their own money to buy hot chocolate and I just hung out and played memory with Liam while Matt played Monopoly with friends.

My husband and I decided to go out to dinner with the boys this week.  We hadn't spent any money aside from groceries and gas and so we treated ourselves to dinner at Texas Roadhouse.  We went before 6:00 p.m. and got their early dinner specials and had coupons for two free kids meals from the summer reading program this past year.  We had water to drink and spent a total of $23.00, including the tip.

We have suspended our satellite account which is going to save us $85.00 per month.  I've been pushing, I mean, encouraging my husband to let us do without it for over a year now.  It finally hit home how much we can save compared to how much we actually watch.  Having 100's of shows available for the boys is not the direction I want to go and saving money was a great excuse.

We've doubled our savings from last week and it's a good feeling to be choosing to not spend money.  When we have no money, it feels a little like we're depriving ourselves of things.  We can't go there, we can't do that, we can't have that, etc.  We have money and as I so kindly remind my seven year old when he asks, we are choosing to save it instead of spend it.

To read more about our Spending Freeze Challenge, click this link: Frugal Living

Monday, October 7, 2013

Homemade Soft Pretzels

I just love the pretzels at the mall and when my sister told me about this recipe, I had to try it!  I've been making them for over two years now and they are a family favorite.  For the price of a mall pretzel, I can make 16 pretzels.  Plus, they are healthier and freeze great!

Buttery Soft Pretzels

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the Pretzel Wash
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping
1.In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2.In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes by hand or 3 minutes if using a Kitchen Aid. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3.Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.
4.When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is all shaped, wash each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
5.Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, until browned.

Original Buttery Soft Pretzel Recipe from AllRecipes

*Don't skip the pretzel wash.  I tried doing without it once and the pretzels tasted like ordinary white bread.*


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Weekly Goals, October 7, 2013

Last week flew by! I had taken a couple of days off from work which made my last week go by super quick.  I'm done for the year and it's like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Last week's goals...

September 30, 2013

1) Create New Goal Outline Check
2) Walk 3 Times Not done
3) Clean off Patio  Partially Complete
Goals for the Week of October 7, 2013
1) Go to Bed With A Clean Kitchen Every Night
2) One Load Of Laundry A Day
3) Clean and Organize Den
1) Pick Up Yarn For Christmas Gifts and Scarf Order
2) Post Office
1) Set Up Writing Center
2) Bulletin Board for Children's Goals, Memory Verse, Chore List and Calendar
3) Leaf Project
4) Morning Devotions
5) Go For Walk x 3
1) Go For A Walk While Husband Can Watch the Boys x 2
2) Begin reading "The Ministry of Motherhood"
1) Complete Home Work for Dave Ramsey Class
2) Set Goals for How To Use Extra Money

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Week Five of the Spending Freeze Challenge

We did it.  We conquered and overcame an entire month of spending no extra money and keeping expenses to a minimum.  Although my husband and I had different ideas on how to handle any extra money that came our way, we stopped using our paychecks for things that we could totally live without.
Plan ahead.
The children are going to get hungry and thirsty.  By planning ahead and bringing simple snacks and water, we avoided the $3-$5 purchases at gas stations and fast food places.  Don't forget about yourself.  You're going to get hungry and thirsty, too and it's so easy to spend when you're not thinking clearly.
Eat dinner before you go.
I met some friends this week for an informal get together.  While their salads and frappes looked yummy, I was able to stick with my plan because I had eaten before I left.  I even remembered to bring a bottle of water.
Find simple and inexpensive ways to treat yourself.
It was our last week of work and I typically purchase a meal out every day at these times.  (When we have students, meals are provided for the teachers so we can eat with the students but our last day of school was the week before.)  I used a coupon for a free sandwich with the purchase of a drink for Monday and used the change I found in my van to pay for that.  I brought my lunch from home on Tuesday and then a friend ended up taking me out.  Wednesday and Thursday I had off and Friday I treated myself to a meal with my co-workers.  I got water and the lunch special and only spent $10, including the tip.
In my family, it is a HUGE deal to be allowed to eat dinner in front of the t.v.  I rented a $1.28 movie from red box, picked up a frozen pizza for $3.33 and made homemade hot chocolate.  The boys really enjoy the special treat and I feel like we're still having fun without having to spend the $50 for dinner at a restaurant and a movie at the theatre.

We spent $100.82 on groceries this week.  The extra 82 cents was due to a meal flop.  I had made homemade bread one evening for grilled cheese sandwiches and found out that Almond Milk can not be used as a substitute for cow's milk.  Had to switch things around and picked up an extra item at the store.

This week we paid all the bills due and those coming up and were able to put a small chunk of money in to savings. 

We're making huge progress...

To read more about our Spending Freeze challenge, click on this link: Frugal Living

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Woman Who Fears the Lord #10

The Woman Who Fears the Lord
A Study of Proverbs 31
Verse 19
"In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers."
I had no idea what a distaff was.  Good thing we live in an age where Goggle helps answer our questions.  Thanks to Disney, I knew what a spindle was. 
Our dear friend, Mrs. Proverbs, took care of her household in everyway.  She was a jack of all trades.  If she had a resume it would include the skill of using a staff (which holds the wool, flax, etc. without letting it get tangled) and a spindle (which spins the wool, flax, etc. into thread, yarn, etc.)
Before factories, Walmart, Kohls and JoAnn Fabrics you had to make your own material for clothes, curtains, tablecloths, towels, etc. 
Thank goodness we live in the 21st century.  I can't see my husband herding and sheering sheep while I wait for him at home with my distaff and spindle. 
The mental picture makes me laugh.
How then, can we use this verse to strengthen and encourage us?
Clothing my family is hard work.
Although it may seem easy to go out and purchase what we need at the store instead of starting from scratch like our friend, Mrs. Proverbs, we do have our own challenges to face.
My current challenge is how to get the clothes we need and still keep within our budget.
My husband has needed to replace his holey shirts and pants for while now.
I noticed both of our son's pants were looking a little short the other day.
And me?  I'm still trying to figure out where my clothes are going to fit.
For now, I'm going to focus on them and pray that the answer comes to me.
Things in the 21st century can be just as complicated as when King Solomon wrote Proverbs 31.
Not staff and spindle complicated, but still complicated indeed.
A link to the series "The Woman Who Fears the Lord"