Tuesday, April 19, 2016

No Spend Month - April 2016: Week 2




If you missed the first post outlining the rules for our no spend challenge, read it here.

Week 2 Finding Our Groove
Week 2, April 11-April 17 went pretty well. We got used to saying no to Starbucks, and fast food, and dinners out. We are saving money and I hope a month of no discretionary spending becomes a habit for how we spend our money.

Our only cheat this week was a field trip fee for our daughter of $20. We were not notified of the trip in advance and it was due 4/20.

Eating Out
This has gotten easier. I don't even want to take the easy way out and pick something up. I know I need to plan ahead or head home for food. My friend did buy me a $2.00 Americano this week. No other food outside of grocery store food.

Entertainment 
This was easier this week too. We took another trip to the library for new books. It was a busy week with MOPS, Bunko, pre-race party, half marathon, and VBS meeting at work. I invited my running friends to our house for a pre-race party rather than going out. I met with a close friend to catch up this week but since she knew we were doing a no spend month she invited me to her house. We invited my son's best buddy over to play instead of going out to lunch together.

Grocery Shopping 
After going over budget last week we managed to stay $10.10 under budget for groceries this week including hosting a pre-race party at our house where we provided hot dogs, buns, and juice for 40 people. 

Clothing and Shoes
No temptations in this area. I even removed myself from most of the online LuLaRoe clothing groups on Facebook so I wouldn't have the temptation while I can't buy anything.

No Household Items 
This week we did good in this area. We did receive word that hubby received the promotion he applied for and we are going to be relocating to Fargo, ND. We met with a Realtor and now have a 3 page list of things to get the house ready which will involve some expense but hopefully not too much.

No Cosmetics or Luxury Toiletries 
No cheats in this area.

No car maintenance 
So far we have not come across any needed car maintenance. My windshield cracked last week but the repair can wait.

Medical Expenses 
We did find out that our insurance did not pay the final balance of Brennan's braces so we now owe $150. I am going to try to wait and pay the balance due May 1st.

Summary
Week 2 continues to be a lesson in self control and delayed gratification. As the month goes on it gets easier and easier.

Spent from no spend categories: $20.00 for field trip for daughter.

Michelle

Monday, April 11, 2016

No Spend Month-April 2016: Week 1



If you missed the first post outlining the rules for our no spend challenge, read it here.

Week 1, Adjusting to the Change. 
Week 1 has been a bit of an adjustment. There were many times this week where I had to tell other people no I couldn't do something and even harder I had to tell the kids no several times to things they were used to doing or really wanted to do. Week 1 actually lasted 10 days, April 1st-April 10th.

The biggest adjustment has been no fast food, no Starbucks, no quick treats. No spending on entertainment or date nights or rewards for the kids.

Nate has stuck to the plan perfectly. In fact the only purchase he has made all month was one tank of gasoline for his Jeep. 

I have made 2 cheats already this month. I owed a co-worker $15 for a birthday gift in March that I forgot to give her. I forgot to purchase the two bible study books I needed for this month. I was able to get one book from the public library but the other I had to purchase on Amazon for $9.99

Eating Out
We haven't strayed but we have used a couple gift cards we had received: The Egg and I, McDonald's, Timberline Cafe. These have been nice treats mixed it with no dent to our budget. We did have to say no to a treat for Brennan after his band concert. We usually stop for an ice cream or something similar after kids have a special performance or school event. This was hard as the kids expect this treat.

Entertainment 
We've taken multiple trips to the public library, checking out many books and movies. We've also taken multiple trips to different parks across town. We've walked to the lake in our neighborhood several times and played at the park in the neighborhood. We've also done things at the house we don't always do like put together a puzzle or watch a new show on Netflix. We've also had fun school events like the egg drop, IB showcase, and a band concert. I also hosted book club and had my first bible study class. Work has also kept me busy the past week with a Parent's Night Out event we hosted Friday night. Yesterday we had my nephew's birthday party. I also am finishing up my training for my 3rd half marathon. Not much time to be bored! I did have to say no to purchasing Rockies tickets as a fundraiser, which was a bummer!

Grocery Shopping 
This was a bit harder this week knowing there was no other food we could consume. I went over budget by $42. I made multiple trips to the grocery store last week. I plan to remedy this next week by making one planned trip.

Clothing and Shoes
This part hasn't been hard for me yet. I tend to do a couple larger shopping trips for clothes in the year rather than buy things each month. I did take Wynter shopping at Nordstrom Rack where I found a pair of shoes I may be returning for next month.

No Household Items 
This has been a bit trickier. Our master bathroom toilet started running and really needed a repair. We lucked out though and Nate came across a partly used toilet repair kit in the garage that had the pieces he needed. 

No Cosmetics or Luxury Toiletries 
This has not been hard. I pre-planned in this area. Twice per year I order Mary Kay. I was almost totally out in the month of March so I placed a big order 3/31. I should be set in this area.

No car maintenance 
So far we have not come across any needed car maintenance.

Medical Expenses 
So far this month we have had doctor visit co-pays and prescription drug co-pays but we still have money in our 2016 flexible spending account so I have not had to take any money from our budget. Medical bills for 2015 that must be paid out of pocket I am waiting to pay until May.

Summary
Most importantly week 1 has been a lesson in self control and delayed gratification, both things I know I need to work on financially. I think as the month goes on it will get easier not harder as I will get into the routine of saying no to spending money.

Spent from no spend categories: $24.99

Spent over budget in allowed category (groceries): $42




Michelle

Thursday, March 31, 2016

No Spend Month-April 2016: Getting Ready!


What is a no spend month? How do you get ready? A no spend month or no challenge is a personal challenge where you or you and your spouse agree to no discretionary spending for an entire month. Yikes, that sounds hard doesn't it. You or you and your spouse agree on the rules and the most important point is sticking to it. 

Nate and I have been on a financial journey for many years. I've talked about our financial journey on the blog a few times: paying cash for a new car,  new years goal posts, and funding our vacation by selling things around the house. We were first introduced to Dave Ramsey's the Total Money Makeover in 2008 and took Financial Peace University  in person at our church fall of 2014. Paying off debt and living a life of true financial freedom is our ultimate goal. The no spend month will be a good challenge for Nate and I to stop discretionary spending, gain more self control, and truly look at how much money each month we are spending on things we truly don't need.

Brown Family No Spend Month Rules:

No Discretionary Spending
1) No eating out, no fast food, no restaurants, no coffee, treats, or snacks not prepared at home.
2) No entertainment that costs money: no bowling, no museum trips, no trips to the movie theater, no Redbox rentals, etc.
3) No clothing or shoe purchases
4) No household purchases, no decor, no repair items, no equipment
5) No cosmetics or other luxury type toiletry items

We Will Continue:
1) All regular bills: mortgage, HOA, insurance, utilities, gasoline, childcare, student loan payments, tithes, and charitable giving.
2) Groceries, cleaning supplies, and regular toiletries like soap and toothpaste will be replenished out of our regular grocery budget which we have set at $150 per week.
3) Gasoline for the cars will be replenished as needed.

How We Prepared:
1) Complete all car maintenance either prior to start of no spend month in March or wait until May.
2) Pay medical bills prior to start in March or wait until May for any newly received medical bills that cannot be paid out of our flexible spending account.
3) Review calendar to anticipate potential events that would derail our no spend month. We did not see any kids field trips, church events, or birthday parties during the month of April that we anticipate spending money on.
4) Reschedule things that cost money to the month of May. For example I have a haircut scheduled in April. I will reschedule that for the 1st week of May.
5) Complete purchases for things we know we need by 3/31. For example I am completely out of my skin care regimen so I am ordering that today. Hubby wants to purchase hunting licenses which are due by mid April so he will purchase them by 3/31.

That's it! We're committed and excited for this challenge. I will be posting updates on our journey every Monday beginning 4/11/16. Follow along to see how we do!




Michelle

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Gift

Valentine's Day, it seems like it's a holiday that people love or hate. On one hand you have people who are hopeless romantics and love to celebrate love! On the other hand you have people who don't like Valentine's Day. They think it is a commercial holiday or they're single or have lost in love. 

Nate and I fall somewhere in the middle. With my birthday falling exactly one week before Valentine's Day we don't often do a separate Valentine's celebration. With 4 kids at home, sneaking away for 1 day in 1 week is about all we can muster. We will often do a big birthday/Valentine celebration in between my birthday (February 7th) and Valentine's Day. We even got engaged on February 10th 9 years ago on one of our birthday/Valentine's Day dates. 

This year our Valentine's gift came a little early. In looking for unique and fun gifts I cam across this fun site: www.uncommongoods.com There were so many different things: Valentine's gift here, anniversary gifts for him that would make great Valentine's gifts here, or anniversary gifts for her that would make great Valentine's gifts here. There were so many fun things it was hard for me to decide. Uncommongoods endeavors to feature unique designs and handcrafted gifts created in harmony with the environment and without harm to animals or people.

Scratch Map packaging


Instructions


Scratch Map laid out

I decided on the scratch map because I have a bit of wanderlust. Travel makes my heart happy and I can't wait to see more of the world. I am always planning our next trip. Right now we have a March National Parks camping trip, a July National Parks camping trip, and a Disney Cruise next January, already planned.


Ready for fun


Before the scratching began

A lot of my travels have been within the United States with the exception of Mexico and the Bahamas. I do plan to visit all 50 states and want to add many more countries to my list of places visited. 

Hard at work

Revealing all the places I've visited

Orion was excited to hear about all my adventures

It was so fun to think about all the places I have visited. All the different states. We even had to pull out a road atlas and think about a few. That is a lot of blue showing in the United States. It looks like I need to plan 4 road trips to hit the rest of the states I haven't been, Northwest, Great Lakes, Southeast, and Northeast. Can't wait for that to happen!

Western hemisphere has a good start


So many states!

I can't wait to get the scratch map from Uncommongoods put up in my loft so we can scratch off our adventures as we take them.

I was compensated for this post by Uncommongoods and provided a product for review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Michelle

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dyeing Hair With Kool-Aid

Phoenix just celebrated her 13th birthday. She had been telling me she had wanted to dip dye the ends of her hair for awhile now. When the trend of brightly colored hair first popped up I'll tell you I wasn't a huge fan but it has grown on me over time. Phoenix told me several of her friends used Kool-Aid to dye their hair so I researched that method.

Dip dyeing the ends of her hair

There are various methods using Kool-Aid: painting it on, mixing with conditioner, not mixing with conditioner, dipping hair in so ends are just colored. I decided on the dip dyeing method so it would be fun and bright but not as dramatic as an all over color. Phoenix and I decided on red for the color.


Waiting

I used 3 small packets of cherry Kool-Aid powder (unsweetened). I boiled 2 cups of water and mixed the powder and boiling water in a dish that wouldn't stain. I was worried the bowl I chose wasn't very deep so I put her hair in as far as it would go.


Still waiting

Phoenix has a dirty blonde shade of hair but I still decided to leave the dye on her hair for 10 minutes to make sure it set. The hardest part for her was holding her neck in that uncomfortable position for the full 10 minutes.


Cherry Kool-Aid powder I used

When her hair came out it was sure red! I also realized I went a little overboard and dip dyed more of her hair than I originally intended. I was going for the bottom 4 inches of her hair but really dyed about 3/4 of her hair. Thankfully she loved it and was so excited to have a fun new look. We will see how long it lasts before it starts fading out. If you want an inexpensive but permanent way to dye you or your kids hair a fun, bright color, I'd highly recommend Kool-Aid. No easier way and no smelly chemicals. Hot cherry Kool-Aid smells delicious!

Finished product!


Michelle

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Fitted Sheet Battle is Real!

So easy, a 3 year old can do it all by himself!


The battle is real! Fitted sheets can be a real pain, especially if you have a racecar bed like my toddler or even a crib or bunk bed. With the racecar bed I literally have to climb into the bed, struggle with the mattress, sometimes even pull out the entire mattress. What a pain!


Orion's racecar bed

I recently learned about a product that makes changing fitted sheets a breeze. QuickZip makes sheets that zip on and off for easy changing. The idea is simple, there are two pieces: a base and a zip on top sheet. The base should never really needed changed. If the zip on top piece gets wet or dirty, simply zip on a new one. How much easier is that? Especially in the middle of the night, which is when it always seems like kids sheets need changing.

So soft

The sheet we received was a super soft, white minky fabric. All my toddler keeps saying is, "Mom, my sheets are SO soft!" He loves them. The bed still looks neat, and clean. The sheet fits well. The sheet is also safe for infants and toddlers. It cannot just pop off.

Bed is all made up and ready to go


Close up of the soft minky and zipper pull system

The zipper and zipper pull are both sturdy and can withstand toddler style tugging and pulling (as you saw in the video). We've only had the sheets a couple weeks but I would think they would last for a long time. If you are frustrated with trying to wrangle your fitted sheet onto your crib, bunk bed, or specialty bed, like Orion's racecar bed, this is a great solution. Orion and I are very happy with his new sheets. Visit the QuickZip website for more information about how to purchase the QuickZip sheets. 

Ready for a night of racing!

Disclosure Statement: I was paid for this post but all opinions are mine only.

Michelle

Thursday, December 31, 2015

How to Fund Your Vacation (or Whatever Else) by Selling Things Around Your House You Aren't Using

It may sound impossible but we funded our Disney Cruise for our family of 6 this year entirely by selling items around out house we were no longer using. It takes time and some work but all and all we made about $3400 over 18 months by selling things in our house we were no longer using!

I am personally not a fan of holding garage sales. I think they are a ton of work and don't always generate a significant amount of money. I have had garage sales that make $500-$700 if I have a lot of big ticket items. I have also had garage sales that barely make over $100. It is a lot of work and time for $100. 

Craigslist has been a game changer in the buying and selling of used items. My large netting garage sales were held prior to Craigslist being a common forum to buy and sell used items. I remember using Craigslist as early as 2006. In the last 10 years I have done 100's of transactions, both buying and selling and have never ran into any problems. You have to use common sense and be safe but almost everyone else is using it to either save or make money, just like you. 

Mattress I sold for $20 (1/4 retail)

If you've never used Craigslist the idea of meeting someone you don't know may seem weird. For this reason and due to recent press people often meet in public. I personally find this inconvenient and do most transactions on my front porch. I only invite people into my home if the item is too large or heavy to bring to my front door and in that case my 2nd Amendment loving husband is home. I also use the same caution when picking up an item at someone else's home. I wait on the front porch and bring someone with me. 

Craigslist prices are similar to garage sales. Don't expect to get top dollar unless you have a rare, expensive, or highly coveted item. Even then, most things are only worth 25%-50% of original value unless it is a special exception. You can get an idea of what your item may sell for my looking at Craigslist in your area and surrounding area. The biggest tip I can give regarding pricing is don't overprice items. If you price your item right it will sell within in a day or two. If you price it too low you'll get multiple offers right away. If you don't get any inquiries within a day or two you likely have priced your item too high or just have an item that isn't likely to sell on Craigslist.


Pack N Play I sold for $50 (1/2 retail)

The items I have found that rarely sell on Craigslist are clothes and shoes. If you have seasonal or sport specific item that retails for $20 or more, it may be worth listing and see if you get any interest. Kids soccer cleats, kids snow boots, kids winter coats, etc. seem to have a good market on Craigslist. General clothes and shoes rarely sell. Occasionally a large lot can be sold for very little money. I have not found a time effective way to sell clothes or shoes so I either give hand-me-downs to friends or donate to Goodwill, take the tax receipt and write off the donation on my taxes.


Bed that was part of a bedroom set we sold for $200 (1/5 retail but was 10 years old)

Another forum I use to sell used items is Facebook buy/sell/trade or garage sale groups. You have to be a little picky about which ones you use. When I first heard about these groups a couple years back I was added to several but found that most weren't active enough to reliably sell items. I have used one local FB online garage sale group with 9,000 members to sell quite a bit the past 2 years. With that many members things tend to sell quickly. With my smart phone camera and the easy to use Facebook interface I prefer posting things to that group first and if they don't sell in a day or two I will also post to Craigslist.

 Limited edition print cloth diapers I sold

Know your target audience. For specialty or kids items I targeted local groups I was a part of. I sold all of my cloth diapers through a local Facebook cloth diaper group I am a part of. I posted big ticket baby items to local moms groups I am a part of on Facebook before posting elsewhere. If I can sell to an acquaintance or friend who is looking for that item, even better. 


Glider rocking chair I paid $50 used for and sold for $50 used 3 years later

I wasn't systematic about going through my house and purging. I just kept my eyes out for things we were no longer using or could live without. Once we had our cruise booked I knew I had 18 months to come up with the money so I started selling items 4-5 at a time. I found it a lot less overwhelming than having tons of stuff for sale at once. Once those items would sell (quickly if I priced them right) I'd then gather another 4-5 things, photograph and list the items for sale.

Another thing I did was I kept the money separate. I think this is very important if you are saving for a specific goal like a vacation. All the money I made from selling items I put into a separate vacation savings account. A lot of things I sold were in the $40-$50 range. Some were only $10-$20. We had a number of big ticket items like our playground, a bedroom set, and a motorcycle. My criteria about whether we should sell it is, were we using it and would be miss it? If the answer was no the item was sold. 

Dog crate sold $50 (1/2 of retail)

Playground set sold $175 (retail $600, I paid $100 used)

The process is ongoing. I still list items for sale as I realize we are no longer using them. Just get started and be realistic about what your items are worth. Take pictures in good light (your smart phone will work), list items, and respond to inquiries promptly. $3400 in 18 months is a lot to make but we had several big ticket items: motorcycle, 1 full bedroom set, bed, playground, lots of baby gear, guitars, patio set, BBQ grill, and tons more. The other thing you'll find is not only will you feel accomplished by getting rid of stuff and making money, your house will feel less cluttered and cleaner. Buying used is a long time hobby of ours as well. We try to look for items 2nd hand before buying new. If you buy things inexpensively 2nd hand you can usually sell them several years later for what you paid.

Happy Selling!



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