Tuesday, August 17, 2010

30 minutes makes a difference!

Yesterday, my girls and I made the short trip to Michigan to visit my mom. We spent time visiting at Mom's apartment, she fed us, we walked by the river and Maya played at the park. Then, we went to the Berrien County Youth Fair, which was fun for Maya. She got to the farm animals and Grandma bought her a couple things. The day was long, to say the least.
I am still amazed at how long it can take to leave the house. On days we have plans, I feel like my entire morning is centered around leaving the house. The to do list: showers and wash up the girls, breakfast for all, ensure there are clean diapers, pack the diaper bag, change diapers, dress the girls, feed the little one (again), pack the car, make sure I have snacks and water for the drive, clean up spit up and possibly change Autumn's (and sometimes my) clothes, change diaper (s) again, get us in the car buckled up, and run back in the house for the one thing (whatever it may be that day) I forgot. WHEW! We left at 11am and got home at 9pm. I was exhausted! Kevin worked late and didn't get home until midnight.
Today, went fairly smoothly. I was looking forward to seeing Kevin since I hadn't seen him since Sunday when I was taken to bed by the girls (story of it's own). Then, he called to tell me the train he usually takes home was broken and he would have to catch the next train. Bummer for everyone! Kevin leaves at 6:30am and is home at 7pm, it's amazing to me how much 30 minutes makes!
When he walks in the door at 7, he assumes possession of Autumn while I finish dinner (which I usually start making about 3o'clock~story of it's own too). We quickly wolf down our food while Maya eats in her toddler fashion (mostly she doesn't eat). We watch Wow Wow Wubzy. Then, we all head to the bed where Kevin reads a story while the girls nurse. Once they're asleep, I am sometimes allowed by Autumn to get out of bed to visit shortly with Kevin before I'm too tired to think. When he's home late, the night seems to shorten exponentially.
I am grateful for the time he is home in the evening. Knowing he is there if Maya or Autumn both need something at the same time. Or, Maya wants someone to lay with her a little longer, Kevin is there to give me a small break. I L.O.V.E. my girls, but momma needs a teeny tiny break.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Green us up and make us black.

I am going to refocus on utilizing green and homemade household items again in hopes to save money. There are "green" things we do already:
1. Cloth diapers- Such a money and time saver. We are not bound to making trips to the store, which is great! With 2 little ones, going to the store takes time. I can "get" diapers in the comfort of our home while the girls play. We were blessed to receive our cloth diapers from Kevin's brother as a baby shower gift when we were expecting Maya.
2. Cloth baby wipes- In the beginning, we used store bought wipes. Then, when I was at a La Leche League meeting, one of the ladies used baby wash cloths and a liquid wash. When I got home, I hopped on the internet to find recipes for mixtures. I have played around with them, and this is what works for me: 1/2 Tablespoon Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap + 1/2 Tablespoon Olive oil + 1 cup of water + 3-4 drops Tea tree oil3. Cloth napkins- This one came about after running out of napkins and paper towels and continually forgetting to buy more. Then, one day, we realized it was better for the environment (and our pocket book) if we quit buying these paper products.
4.Grocery store bags as garbage bags- Because we recycle and compost, we have found all we need is a bathroom size garbage can. Thus, we are able to use the bags we get from the grocery store for free instead of buying them!
5. Baking soda, vinegar, hot water, Bissel steam mop, and microfiber cloth.... this is my cleaning arsenal. I am trying to get away from store bought cleaning agents which are toxic to the environment and suck away money. Currently, I buy laundry detergent, dish soap and dishwasher detergent. I plan to go back to making my own laundry soap which is easy and cost effective. I am on the hunt for a dishwasher detergent recipe that won't leave a white film on the dishes, fingers crossed.

I am reading a couple books on cleaning your home using green products. Hope I learn a bunch of new tricks!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Black and white, but mostly red

Obviously, finances have been on my mind A LOT lately. I have bouts of being very savvy with our finances then life throws a curve ball and I throw my hands up and live on the irresponsible side. I want to be financially responsible to set a good example for our children. I can't believe I'm going to do this, but I want to remain accountable; SO, to follow is our budget in black and white. First, some background information. We occupy my mother's home. She lives and works just over the state line. Instead of paying rent, we have taken over the utilities for her. This is quite a great arrangement for all parties involved. My mom is able to redirect the money she was spending on utilities as she pleases and I am able to be a stay at home mom! Mom plans to retire in 3 years, so that is our time line for getting our finances in line to buy a home and/or move west. On to our monthly budget.....

Savings~ $41.66 (I am making it a goal to have $500 in savings. I am going to build this over 12 months)
Student Loans~$278.79 (3 out of 4 loans are delinquent once utilities are up to date I will address this issue)
                            #1-AES (private loan) behind $139.79 payments $23.29
                            #2 IDAPP behind $300 payments $50
                            #3 SM-kevin (private loan) current payments $151.90
                             #4 SM-Kristen behind $227.28 payments $53.60

Credit cards (*scowl*)~ $205 (we have 2 cards to our names and they are closed accounts)
                                          #1 balance $4,241.01 payments $150
                                          #2 balance $715.96 payments $55

Gas and Electric~ $91 credit agreement (we got behind and had to make a payment plan to avoid disconnection)
                           + monthly usage which I'm estimating to be about $320
Water~$40
Sewage/Trash/Recycling~$46    behind $191.30
DISH (mom has a contract we must fulfill)~ $75.93
Phone/Internet (again another contract)~$97 behind $80
Train fare~ $193.50 unlimited rides
Cell phone ~$124 behind $125.10 total due $256.34
Insurance~$104
Cat care~$20 (monthly cat litter, cat food every 3 months bought at Costco)
Food/Personal Care~ $300 (currently we receive state funds for groceries ($220) and WIC which help our budget tremendously. I hope to maintain this budgeted amount after the aid is gone.)
Gas~$75 (on gas cards)

Expense grand total:$1774.88
Income is in the middle of changing. But I will say, there isn't much left. Our income is bi-monthly. I hope to update on here to keep accountable with our money. More to come....

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gotta be clean!

Last night I realized there were a few things I missed in my budget: pet care (we have 3 cats), personal care, home cleaning, car care and professional expenses.

Personal care and home cleaning are fairly easy to address. I have an off an on addiction to using local drugstore incentive programs to get free or super cheap items. Items include: soap, tooth paste, tooth brushes, shampoo, conditioner, shaving needs, diapers, paper products and much more! I'm going to be diligent in using these programs. I solemnly vow I will not pay more than $1 for any personal care or cleaning products. Oh, but what about the laundry? I've got it covered. I will go back to making my own laundry soap. I want to find a good dishwasher detergent recipe that doesn't leave a white residue on everything!

I'm going to need to look more closely at the other expenses. Cats need food, litter, and vaccines. Care care includes: basic maintenance and license plates. Professional care is going to be a doozy. Kevin requires 2 licenses, as well as 2 professional memberships/accreditation. I on the other hand only have 1 license to think about. More number crunching to come and a revised budget. I hope there is some more money I missed!

Just a quick though on professional expenses, I think next tax check will be used to cover theses costs. We could also use tax money for the cat vet visit and license plates! I'm going to have to remember this!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Moving through the list.

Number one on the list, check! I have figured out monthly income and added up expenses. Let me tell ya, there's not much for food and gas. It is helpful that Kevin rides the train to work since train fare remains fairly constant in price, unlike gas.
Speaking of gas, I am at a loss as to budgeting this item. Kevin's car is mostly driven to and from the train station; so, I am budgeting $25 for his car, which will be one tank of gas per month. My car is the family car and I do the grocery shopping; therefore, I will allow for 2 tanks of gas per month which should be about $50.
I have learned when I use Speedy Rewards™ card at my local Speedway Gas Station to purchase the fuel cards, I earn points. AND by using the prepaid card, I get 3-cents per gallon savings + more points for buying gas! Points can be exchanged for gift cards to various stores, restaurants, or for more fuel cards! I can't make up my mind if I want free gas or a free family night out? Putting the thought in writing has brought forth the decision. My Speedy Rewards™ goal is 54,000 points to get a $50 Vanilla Visa Gift Card to be used for a family fun night.
Alright, steps 1 and 6 have been addressed. Today, I will work on the food budget, which is a whopping $220. Sounds impossible, but I WILL make it happen! Grocery sale ads come on Wednesdays which is today. I'm going to plan meals based on sales. more to come tomorrow on my food strategy!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dollar day woes!

I am frustrated with money! Rather, I am frustrated at my inability to manage our finances.I can make excuse after excuse about why things don't work out. But the truth is, I have not been firm enough. There definitely is not very much money left after the bills, but it is my job to make it work. We have chosen for me to stay home with the girls. It is what we both want. I am responsible for running the home. I must set a good example for our children. I must make the time to plan meals based on sale ads. I must adhere to the grocery budget. I must get our bills back on track. I think I will refrain from spending anymore money until the next paycheck at the beginning of next month.
Here's my money plan:
1. Put into writing monthly income and bills. This is the first step to seeing how much I have to work with for groceries and gas.
2. Set a monthly grocery budget. Since our income twice monthly, I will evenly divide the budgeted amount by two. Then, I will withdraw this amount on payday. I will be on a cash-only grocery budget.
3. Clearly define what bills are due when. Using planner, write down bill due dates.
4. Bring utility bills up to date.
5. Once utility bills are current, I will use my bank's bill payment system to arrange all bills to be paid automatically!
6.To keep from taking money out throughout the month, I will purchase 2 gas gift cards for hubby and myself at the beginning of the month.

Maya just woke up from nap. Motherhood calls. Time to make lunch. I will work on step 1 today.

To keep me accountable, I will report here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lots to say, not sure how?!

I have all these thoughts of things I want to write about: eating vegetarian, recipes, eating well, avoiding high fructose corn syrup & hydrogenated oils, homemade cleaning supplies, meal planning, grocery shopping deals, getting our budget under control, and much more! I don't know how to go about it? I want what I put out there to be backed up with sources, but I don't have the time to research with 2 girls under 2 years. I will do the best I can.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Greetings!

Hello! My name is Kristen. I married my high school sweetheart Kevin at sunrise on July 25, 2006 in beautiful Hawaii! We welcomed our first daughter Maya October 20, 2008 and our second daughter Autumn January 17, 2010. Yup, that’s right; they’re only 15 months apart! It wasn’t our planned spacing, but I wouldn’t change a thing!

I have an associate degree in nursing. I worked full time as a registered nurse in the emergency room from 2007 until the arrival of Maya. Then, I began working every-other weekend. Then, Autumn came, at which time, I became a full-time mom. I work occasionally still to keep up my skills, get out, earn a little extra money for the family, and see the wonderful people I work with (to date, I have worked one shift :) )

I am spiritual (not religious), vegetarian, try to be conscious of what I eat (i.e. no high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils), I prefer organic, our 15 month old still hasn’t had: a vaccine, cake, ice cream, cookies, etc, we cloth diaper, make our own: baby wipes, laundry soap, baby food and working on more! My sister calls me “green” whatever that means :). Kevin and I try to make informed decisions about our family’s lives.

We are constantly questioned about our lifestyle choices. I titled this blog “A Journey to Living Out loud” because I want to share our life including our: lifestyle, thoughts, beliefs and journey towards goals. This is my little family’s journey through life!