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Monday, June 30, 2008

Cash budget.

Alright, we are officially to the end of our first month trying the cash budget for the first time, so I thought I'd analyze and share how we did. Overall I think it went okay. We definitely have room for improvement but it was a good start, at least.

We have two of these expandable folders (from Target): one for everyday spending type things (groceries, diapers, household items, etc), and a second one for larger money categories like (auto maintenance, furniture, doctor, vacation, gifts, etc)The nice thing about these folders is that I can slip some coupons in there too! I don't have many coupons so it works. The cash system is a little tricky when you buy more than one cateogory at a time (i.e. a pack of diaper wipes with the groceries) but most of the time it worked fine to make change with myself and get it balanced back out once I left the store. No biggy.

We did a lot of borrowing from categories when we wanted "treats" and were already out of that money. So the biggest thing we need to practice is self-control and discipline. It helped when I thought about things that would be coming up. For example, I was very tempted to steal from "child clothing" category because the kids didn't need any more clothes for the month, but then I remembered that we have a wedding coming up in the fall and I'll need to either buy or rent a little tux for Eli since he's ring bearer. I have no idea how much that'll cost so we need to plan ahead now. So we just need to remind ourselves WHY we're saving and that'll help make it easier. The electric bill was way down again this month so I was able to redistribute the extra money to some of the categories that didn't seem to have enough. We'll probably have to keep flexing it a little every month, according to what's going on in our lives. So with a few tweaks here and there, I'm anxious to start Month 2! Especially since today is Monday and I need grocery money but have to wait until tomorrow! haha

Ways we're trying to save:
* I'm NOT a big fan of washcloths. We tend to use them too long until they smell horrible, and then every time you even touch it your hands smell too. BUT we're trying to go back to them so we hardly ever use paper towels any more. So that'll make an $8 pack of paper towels last waaay longer!

* Since we have to take the trash out almost every single day anyway, we're just putting dirty diapers in the regular trash instead of diaper pail. And if it's a poop diaper, I put it in a Walmart sack first, since we have a thousand of them.

* I've rediscovered tuna. It had been sooo long since I had bought tuna ever, but this week I thought--hey, I'll get some Kevin for his lunches. It's been awhile, and I know he likes it. And at less than $1 a can, that makes a cheap meal! Not sure how regular lywe can do tuna though, because Kevin doesn't care for casseroles. But for this week, it was a nice change!

* The hardest area to keep under control is eating out. It's our main source of entertainment, even if it's just quick lunches that we bring back home. So I talked to Kevin about maybe making meals more fun every now and then--doing picnics or grilling at the park or something--and he said that the appeal for him for eating out was that there's no cleanup. Sooo... I thought maybe we could start having one night a week or something where we eat super easy meal with paper plates. Something that won't require pots and pans and all this silverware, or at least something I can prepare earlier in the day, and we can give ourselves a day off from all the dishes. I'll have to be a little creative about it, but it's something I want to at least try for the coming month.

So what are your secrets to saving money here and there??

Friday, June 27, 2008

A little of everything.

Here's a random blog of things going on at our house lately...

* Flood status: It seems that people in Iowa are returning to their homes and sorting through all the damage. The water levels have gone down (still not sure if it's complete though). Kevin's sister's house in MN didn't get much damage. Just a couple inches in the basement and enough to ruin the carpet and cancel their trip here, but I think that was about it. They thought they would be able to come in August instead, but as it turns out, we just found out they won't be able to come at all. They only got a partial refund on their plane tickets for the five of them. Dad and Uncle Lucas can't come at all because that was their vacation time, and the refunds for their tickets can't be transferred over to the remaining three people (Mom, Nannie, and Aunt Carri). The refunds on their individual tickets aren't enough to cover a full ticket and they can't afford to pay MORE than what they already did in the first place. So basically, they can't come at all. And we're very bummed. BUT it makes us all the more excited to be moving back to Iowa this fall!!!

* I lost my digital camera at the park last Friday when we were there for playgroup. I had it all the way to the end when we were heading to the van. I remember, because Eli was trying to reach for it. But I forgot it was in the top of the stroller, and when I folded up the stroller to put it in the van, the camera fell out. And in the chaos of a screaming toddler who didn't want to leave the park and a small baby and our bags, I just didn't notice. And when we went back later in the day to look for it, it was gone. So for all week I was slightly worried about that, and we were already looking at new camera$. But today we went back to the park for playgroup, and a really nice woman who isn't part of our playgroup but knows two of my friends had found it and brought it to the park today!!! HUGE BLESSING!!

* We're almost to the end of the month trying the cash budget for the first time. (more on that to come)

* Hannah is 4.5 months old now. She finally had her checkup on Wednesday and she is 14 lbs 12 oz and 24.5 inches long, riding in the 75th percentile. She's rolling from back to tummy now and playing with toys. And she and Eli are getting to where they laugh at each other now. Sooo cute!

* We're working on sleep training with Hannah. For awhile she would only cry a little bit and then fall asleep for naps. But somewhere along the line that stopped and she'd just scream and scream and I just could not take that. It ripped my whole heart out! So in order for the two kids to share a room, a lot of times we'd rock Hannah to sleep. We'd swaddle her up and she'd go right out. It was easy and only took a few minutes. But we realized a week or so ago (when we tried camping, I think) just how often we were doing that and really did not want to create a bad habit. So one afternoon when I was out running errands Kevin decided to try the sound machine that we had gotten we were trying all this with Eli. It never worked for him; it didn't even phase him whether it was on or off. But it worked and is still working with Hannah! It's still not completely ideal but much better. So now the routine is to swaddle her up, rock her until she's calm and getting sleepy, and then lay her down to the sound of ocean waves. If she does still cry it's only for a minute or so, and she's out. So kudos to hubby for thinking of an option that seems to be working!

* I'm matron-of-honor for my friend's wedding in September in Iowa. Seeing that I live a thousand miles away with two small children, I'm just not able to make it back for a bridal shower n such, so I've been busy lately trying to help plan/delegate the work out.

* And finally, I'm a tired mom who every day wishes for a break! Hannah still will not take a bottle so Kevin and I can't really get out ever. I'm exhausted, and we just need to reconnect and recharge. And I totally blew it with my Bible Reading Plan that I started on my birthday/Easter. I'm about 100 days behind it seems, so I feel like I've just given up. I'm in a spiritual slump and have a bad attitude that negatively affects all areas of my life. I just need a heart change really. God has a lot of work to do on me. So pray about that if you think of it.

Just wanted to clarify that I'm not gloom and doom all the time. I'm still having a lot of fun enjoying my wonderful family and loving summer. It's just when the toddler episodes strike, I don't have the patience to deal with it properly leaving me feeling burnt out. And I think Kevin feels much of the same, probably because of my attitude!

Alrighty, I think that's about it. All pretty boring stuff and a ton of reading for you, but that's what we've been up to. And that's why I've been MIA from my blog for awhile!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - June 16

Since our family wasn't here over the weekend, I have loads of food that we need to eat. So that pretty determines our menu itself, making it kind of easy this week!

We have lots of steak meat to cook, lasagna fixins for a full-sheet lasagna, and lots of hamburger/hot dog buns, so with that in mind, here's the menu...

Monday - softball game - brats, orange, peas and carrots

Tuesday - lasagna (eat one, freeze one), garlic bread, broccoli, peaches

Wednesday - beef stir fry, rice, mandarin orange

Thursday - stroganoff, cooked carrots, apple

Friday - hot dogs, chips, fruit cocktail

Saturday - sloppy joes, oven roasted potatoes, apple

Dessert of the week: banana + vanilla pudding + vanilla wafers = whatever you call it!

For more menu ideas, visit Laura at Organizing Junkie. Have a great week!

Camping Trip

Since we were so disappointed when at the last minute Kevin's family couldn't come, we wanted very much to find something fun to do instead. So we decided this would be a good weekend to try camping with the kids! Since it was just a trial run we stayed very close to home, but we did want to leave the back yard because I thought it would confuse Eli more if we were still home but not sleeping in our beds. And overall, it went really well considering the kids are still so small! Eli did pretty good at entertaining himself kicking around balls while we were busy getting the tent set up. Once the camp fire was going he understood right away that it was hot and not to touch it. We kept him up later until it was actually starting to get dark, and he understood that the tent was his bed and he stayed right in his area. We all slept right in a row in our small tent, and it worked just fine. When Eli woke up in the morning and saw us all there too, he kept saying, "Wow. Wow." The hardest part of it all was Hannah. She usually falls asleep at the last feed of the day, but she didn't and without a rocking chair it was really hard to get her to sleep. But she finally did and then she woke up twice in the night, though she doesn't normally wake at all. So that was a little bothersome but fortunately she was laying right next to me so I could just nurse her for a little bit and she'd be right back to sleep. It was a GREAT campground--very clean, lots of fun things for children (even though Eli was a little too small for most of it), a swimming pool (that wasn't set up yet), and even mini golf. It definitely wasn't quite the relaxing experience it used to be without kids, but I still think we'll try again this summer!

Getting set up
Hannah just hung out in her seat for forever.
Eli's exploring the tent.
This magna-doodle comes in handy sooo many times! Great for cars and restaurants!
Check out all this fun stuff!
I took Eli to the sand volleyball court to play in the sand.
Back home and unloading the van.
Update on the flooding: Kevin's sister and her husband got the water cleaned up out of their basement. They'll have to replace the carpet and a few other things, but overall it wasn't terrible. The rivers seem to have crested and the water levels are going back down, but there is still a long ways to go. Continue to pray. A lot has been lost and a lot of lives affected.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I couldn't possibly be more disappointed right now. Remember the flood that I posted about yesterday? Well, apparently it's worked its way up the river (or whatever floods do) to where Kevin's sister and her husband live in Minnesota and flooded their basement. It's pretty bad, and now the whole family can't come for their visit. They were supposed to arrive later today and be here until Tuesday. We haven't seen them since Christmas, and they haven't seen Hannah yet at all. And now we won't see them again until September probably. Kevin's mom has several health problems, and her strength in her arms isn't very good. I was sooo excited for her to be able to hold her baby granddaughter while she's still small enough. I knew it would be very special for her. And now that may not happen ever, as Hannah might be too big come mid-September. Just adds to all of it. I'm very very very disappointed and in tears. Please pray.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Under water!

My home state of Iowa is getting some MAJOR flooding right now! My parents are okay where they're at, but in eastern Iowa the little town where I went to college and where many of my friends stayed after graduation is really suffering. My friends and many others have had to evacuate their homes until this all goes down. So please keep them in your prayers! Check out these pictures...

Even the stop sign is almost lost.

Notice the shelter house at this park.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thankful Thursday

The little blessings of our past week...

* The beautiful weather! We kind of skipped spring and I do believe summer is finally here!
* Pool days. (baby pool, that is)* Walking. I LOVE when I can actually get out for a good walk!
* Hannah hasn't had a throw-up since Mother's Day, so that's 3.5 weeks now and it appears that she's outgrown whatever it was!!
* Just one week until Kevin's family comes for a visit, and they can see the kids and meet baby Hannah!!
* Kevin's working nights this week but he's had several short days, so that's been fun to see him before I go to bed!
* I started sleeping the kids in the same room now (for most of the time), and it's going really well! Eli was so excited when he saw Hannah in the crib this morning. Usually she's up and out of the room before he's awake.
* Eli's having much better behavior today, especially compared to yesterday.
* Our new budget we started this month. It makes it clear whether we have money for something or not, and we make wiser decisions on how to spend.
* Hannah loves her toes now, and it's so cute to watch her grab them all the time.* The love between siblings. Eli is such a good big brother, and Hannah loves to watch him and smile at him.
How has God blessed YOU this week?? Read more Thankful Thursday HERE.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Jun 2

Monday - grilled pizza

Tuesday - Italian chicken tenderloins, orange, oven roasted potatoes

Wednesday - poverty meal, peaches, green beans

Thursday - breakfast nite- sausage links, eggs, toast

Friday - ground beef gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, apples

Saturday - turkey panini, carrots, strawberries

Sunday - quesadillas, pears

Dessert of the week - Groth Family angel food cake