Friday, July 29, 2011

July Budget update & August Budget

July is officially over in 3 days. We did amazing. Halfway through I felt like we got our butts kicked and we weren't making much progress but here's a quick recap of what we did in July:
  • Paid off Great Lakes Student Loans. We started 2011 (Well in February is when I started tracking our snowball) with a balance of $3380 and we paid that off in 6 months. That feels amazing!
  • Stayed in budget, with a few slips but nothing that made us break the bank and we even got to enjoy a RSL game thanks to Mike's boss. That was fun times!
  • Paid 6 additional car payments on my car. SIX ADDITIONAL PAYMENTS!!! I'm kind of speechless with this one.
  • Since the year has started we have paid $6600 towards our debt. Thanks to tax returns, a very generous grandma and cutting our savings back to the $1k emergency fund. At this rate we could potentially be out of debt in 4 years. My goal is 3 years. I honestly think we can do this if we stick to it.
  • We had about $400 extra dollars in our budget to throw at our debt. This came from overestimating the cost of somethings and underestimating our paychecks. (It's a little sneaky, but it makes me feel better to see that we made more than I think we will).
  • I also looked into Life Insurance quotes. It's morbid to think about, but if anything should ever happen to one of us, we need to make sure the other one is taken care of. I'm thinking by the end of the year we'll have policies in place and that will be taken care of.
  • I canceled 2 credit cards that had zero balances and we were just holding on to. One was Kohl's and the girl was like "you know you'll be missing out on extra savings opportunities". My response: "I know". And I'm not even that upset about it. I was spending money at Kohl's cause I had a coupon or because they were offering Kohl's Cash, not because we were in need of something. Good riddance!
August's budget is done and we have a ton of $$ left over. There's 5 Tuesdays in the month so Mike gets 1 extra paycheck. That's going straight towards my car. We have it over half paid now and we got it in Nov 2008. But we did refinance it a year later for a better rate and a lower payment. So we're right on track with that one. Well....we're ahead I guess, but you know what I mean. I do need to add Christmas money into each budget and start buying the supplies for all the gifts I want to make. Better to start now than be in a mad rush come December, ya know!

I just wish I could skip ahead 3 years and be out of debt. Or better yet, jump back 3 years and start doing this then. But I'm very grateful that we're both employed and able to provide for our family and that we are finally starting to take control of our finances.

Meal Plan July 27-Aug 2

Oops it's already Friday and I forgot to post our meal plan. I blame Jillian Michaels for making me forget.

Wednesday: FFA (Free For All)
Thursday: Rice & Bean Chimichungas. They were delicious! Very easy to make and I will make again, but probably do different flavor combinations
Friday: PB&J Pancakes
Saturday: ?? It was going to be grilled chicken but now we're going to see my in-laws so not sure yet.
Sunday: Oriental Chicken Salad w/veggies & pitas chips for dipping
Monday: Rainy Day Brisket. I have never cooked brisket before so I hope it turns out ok.
Tuesday: Upside-Down Pizza.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Real Salt Lake Soccer

Mike's boss had some extra tickets for a Real Salt Lake soccer game, so we invited his dad and headed down on Saturday. The seats were AMAZING. Almost midfield and row K which is the 11th row. We had a blast and the girls were pretty good too. At the end there were fireworks for Pioneer Day which is a silly Utah holiday that celebrates when the Mormons landed in Utah. That's a story for a different day. Anyway, here's some pics. Mike's dad and Mercy:
The fans on the other side of the stadium were passing this banner around the stadium:
Start of the second half. At this time the score was 0-0. At the end of the game it was 4-0 and RSL won!!
Grace is just chillin'.
Mercy fell asleep for a while. Yippee!!
We had a blast and will most likely go see another game later on (hopefully). Mega thanks to Mike's boss!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Menu 7/20-7/26 & notes from last week's menu.

Last week's meals changed up a little because we had to go to a wedding reception. But let me tell you the turn out:

Thurday's Crunchy Chicken called for Ritz crackers and my smart self was thinking Saltines, so I knew I had those so I didn't get any Ritz. Soooooo we used crushed up Parmesan Goldfish crackers instead. O.M.G. that was amazing.

Saturday's Orange Ginger Chicken we didn't make, which was fine cause I didn't buy enough chicken (d'oh) and I couldn't find any ginger. But this was the night of the wedding party, so it all worked out in the end. The party had a chocolate fountain... /drool

Beef & Broccoli Stir-Fry was good. I have honestly never had it before and was a little scared. Found out I don't like water-chestnuts. But I did like the sauce and the beef was season amazingly. Go Mike!

Oh and we swapped Sunday & Monday's meals cause the Mexican Lasagna called for enchilada sauce and I make my own and I didn't have time Sunday before work. So I cooked the beef and made the sauce Monday morning and Mike had the lasagna waiting for me when I got home last night. Even Grace ate some...well, kind of. She has this obsession with sour cream so she was pretty stoked that she got to dip the stuff in the sour cream. But it was AMAZING!! Definitely a repeat recipe.

Tonight is Beefy Noodle Casserole which is like Hamburger Helper but homemade. But since I have like 50 bajillion boxes of Hamburger Helper, maybe Mike will just make that. I'm off at 8, so I guess I'll be surprised.

So on to this week's plan:
Wednesday: Hot Dogs & Soup (I'm closing on Wednesday's now so probably will do my shopping on Thursday. Have to go with something we have on hand)
Thursday: Jambalaya Stuffed Chicken w/salads
Friday: Bacon & Spinach Quiche
Saturday: Burgers. We're going to head up to Bear Lake in the early afternoon so I may make Picnic Chicken, which is basically fried chicken that we eat cold. It's delicious. I'll post my recipe (easy-peasy!) and pics if I have time
Sunday: A-1 Pork Chops w/mashed potatoes & salads
Monday: Roast w/zesty gravy and veggies and some kind of starch (haven't gotten that far yet lol)
Tuesday: Pizza. Same recipe as last week. Love that dough recipe!!

Pretty good week. Have been super impressed with E-Mealz so far. Takes the guess work out of what to make each night, and almost everything we've made, we've liked so far.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Christmas in July

All of our budgeting has me thinking about Christmas and what we're going to get for the girls. I'd like to keep it to spending as little cash as possible. Last year we went a little overboard. I started making a list of what we're going to get each girl. First, I'm on a roll and planning on finishing Mercy's birth announcement which I'll giver her for Christmas. It looks like this:
I've had it for years (like around 10 or so...) and I've been intimidated by it because it's not typical Aida cloth. But so far so good.

Grace is going to get this one:

She loves cats so I figure it's a good choice. Hopefully they won't take me long to do. But I do need to work on Grace's when she's asleep so she doesn't see it.

I also would like to make an Advent calendar if I have time. I saw this last year and I feel in LOVE with it. And looking for the link to the post I found this cute crayon holder and now I'm going to make one for Grace. Probably Mercy too for later on down the road. So many crafting projects and so little time!! I also saw a post for these cute as a button dolls. Perfect for Murp-a-durp! (our current nick-name for Mercy). All of these are linked from Homemade by Jill. I stumbled upon it a while ago and love her crafts! I wish there were more hours in the day :)

Ok next is monograms for the girl's rooms. That idea came from Craftastical and here's a link.
And here's a picture of what I'm going to attempt:
Obviously I'll do the girl's initials. And I may just do one for our living room or bedroom. We don't really have much in our bedroom so I'd be neat to do one with and M & B for our bedroom. Maybe right over our bed since we're missing a headboard. And I get to play with Mod Podge. I LOVE Mod Podge ever since I did the coasters last year for the fam.

Grace is going to get some hair clips as well. There's so many different ways to make these using fake flowers, ribbons, buttons and gems. I just saw a post from The Frugal Girls about "korker" hair clips that look so cute. So Grace is going to get a bunch of different kinds. I'm going to get a long, thick ribbon and attack all the different clips to the ribbon so we can hang it in her room and she can pick and choose each day. Now that her hair is longer and she's letting me style it for her, I think she'll really like it. I'll probably make a few smaller ones for Murps, but we'll see. It depends on how much hair she has come December.

I do have $100 credits with Eversave that I won from Hip 2 Save so I've been waiting patiently for a good deal to come up that I can get some toys or clothes for the kids. I also save Pampers Gifts to Grow points from diaper packages and random bonus points online. You can turn them in for rewards and stuff. I have a lot and I'm saving up for something big. Huggies has the same type of rewards program. And so does Disney Movie Rewards.

And my fave... SWAGBUCKS! I'm saving for giftcards. I have enough for almost $25 in giftcards that I'm going to use to get Grace some Tag books or Leapster games.

And Grace really wants a spinning toothbrush. There's often coupons for them so I'll just wait for a sale. It'll make a nice stocking stuffer.

But that's the plan for now. A lot of homemade things which means I need to get cracking. Bring on the coffee and X-Files. I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of late nights!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mysterious Ways

One of my favorite quotes is "The Lord works in mysterious ways." that movie.

Give up?

Blue Brothers. Classic. If you haven't seen it, go rent it right now!

Ok probably not right now, but you know what I mean. Anyway, this is SOOOO true. He really does. When we started this TMM (Total Money Makeover) I was very discouraged with how long it was going to take us to pay off our $55,000 in debt. That number is HUGE! I used Dave Ramsey's free debt-snowball calculator to see how long it would take us and it estimated payments until 2025 or something. Way too far off in the future. Now that we're on a written budget and I am telling my money what to do, we keep ended up with extra money each month. Mike's checks are bigger than I budget, our bills are smaller than I budget. So the next item we're attacking is my car loan.

We had to get a car back in 2009 because my trusty Dodge Shadow died. It was more to fix than the car was worth and us, in our debt-filled ignorance, financed a used car. We did pay $1000 down, which helped, but it was our first car loan in our relationship history. And then the next year we got Mike a used truck. And now we have $20,000 in car loans. I'm sure if we called Dave he'd say to sell the truck, but we're just going to pay it off. I'm still full-force on being out of debt in 3 years, including all car loans and student loans.

And it seems like the Lord is willing to help. He's showing us that by not living beyond our means, we can accomplish our goals. I have a whole new outlook on "things". "Things" aren't important. Ya, I like to have nice "things" and I like to look back at old "things" to remember fun times, but the most important thing, especially right now, is that we're able to provide for our family to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. All the other "things" we'll be able to get one day...when we're not a slave to the bank.

This month alone I'm throwing 5 EXTRA car payments at my car. That means there's only 37 payments left to go. We can do this!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Meal Plan July 13-19

Here's our menu for this week.

Wednesday: Spaghetti & Meatballs w/salad
Thursday: Crunchy Chicken w/corn & steamed carrots
Friday: Pizza!! We use THIS dough recipe. It's amazing.
Saturday: Orange Ginger Chicken w/mashed potatoes & salad
Sunday: Mexican Lasagna w/chips & salsa
Monday: Beef & Broccoli Stir-Fry w/white rice & rolls
Tuesday: Beefy Noodle Casserole w/salad & garlic bread

Most of these are from E-Meals and the produce is mostly from Bountiful Baskets.

Appreciating innocence

Today I told Grace that we had a rough day. I said tomorrow would be better and I wouldn't be bad. She told me that I wouldn't have to go to "time out". Sometimes I just need to stop and watch her innocence before she turns into a teenager. I have a feeling that's going to be a rough time in our lives...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Budget Update

Ok one month down. We did pretty good. And the best part is...we paid off Great Lakes!! We paid off $3380 in 5 months! Next debt we're attacking is Box Elder Credit Union which is my car. We have $6300 left and now we'll be paying a minimum of $242 each month instead of $164. Plus adding any extra money from each month onto it. If we can get an extra $260 a month we should have it paid off in a year, but my goal is to do it faster than that. Maybe by Feb or March of 2012.

As for the budget for June, we came in $184 below budget! This money will get thrown towards my car loan. Our dentist appointments ended up being about $90 less than we originally budgeted and we spent $25 less in gas. That and Mike's checks were on average $20 more than we anticipated. I'm keeping our income the same, since his checks to vary from month to month, but any extra money is nice. And gets us out of debt faster! July doesn't really have anything big other than an oil change. And the weeks are weird so we have an extra offertory payment for church and an extra daycare check. But coming up in August, Mike will have 5 paydays! Sweet!!

I did want to share my grocery savings tracker for the year. We're halfway through and I've managed to stockpile a lot of food and save a ton of money!
Hopefully this shows up larger, but as you can see I've saved 44% this year on groceries alone. There are some rebates that I've sent in, but I don't track those. But $5000 worth of groceries for only $2900!?! I'm quite impressed with myself :) My $17.75 newspaper subscription has been paid for. And so has my few hours a week of coupon clipping. I'll get some pics of my stockpile and post those soon. Oh and this savings tracker is courtesy of The Coupon Project. I love her blog and her Couponing 101 is what I used when I first started up.

Lastly, we signed up for e-meals this month. We have been making a meal plan each day but I felt like it has been the same things over and over. And we were making it a month in advance, which was nice, but it was hard to shop for. E-meals uses the sales ad to create a menu and then you can shop the sales. Add coupons to save even more! So far we've made 2-3 things from each week's meal plan and have loved them. I highly recommend.