Friday, June 17, 2016

No Spend Month - Week 3 and 4 Update


If you missed early posts in this series: Getting Ready, Week 1, and Week 2

During week 2 we learned Nate received the promotion he applied for with his company to Moorhead, MN, meaning we were going to be relocating to Fargo, ND on a short timeline. This obviously made for some no spend exceptions that I will outline below. The great news is our house went under contract, within days, with multiple offers, over asking price.

Week 3 and 4: Craziness
Have you ever moved across the country? Relocated on short notice? We have before and it is always a stressful process but this is our first time as homeowners and getting our home ready to sell on short notice was both stressful and expensive. I also was out of state for a work conference the last week of April. Needless to say when we planned our no spend month we never thought things would get so crazy but we pushed through.

Eating Out
This is the area where we did the best! It was a huge eye opener how much we truly were spending both at restaurants and fast food. Going out to dinner as a family is something we enjoy but with 6 people it is never less than $35 and often is $80-$90 with a tip. Our money is better spent on other things. We will reserve eating out for special occasions and really strive to plan our meals and be prepared. A lot of our eating out is due to our crazy schedule with 4 kids and 2 working parents and not planning things in advance. With our move I won't immediately start working so I am going to work to become better organized in this area and limit this spending going forward.

Our cheats were at the very end of the month. Nate spent $6.44 at his work cafeteria 4/27 so I bought myself a drink at dinner at Bahama Breeze $10.45 with tip. 4/30 I had a moment of weakness and exhaustion and got Nate a soda (and myself one too) instead of going into King Soopers $6.86.

$23.75 for the whole month with no spending all month until 4/27.

Entertainment
Entertainment wasn't hard to find during the last two weeks of April. We had a busy calendar with bible study, JOY team party for the kids at church, Great Cloth Diaper Change, and I had a work conference in Atlanta. On top of all that we were under a time crunch to get our house on the market so every free moment was spent doing repair projects. It wasn't glamorous or exciting but we kept busy.

Grocery Shopping
We managed to stay right at budget those last two weeks. It was a good reminder that if I set a budget and calculate out costs while I shop or use grocery delivery I can stay on budget even with cleaning supplies, toiletry items, and household goods.

Clothing and Shoes
No temptations in this area. The no spend month just affirmed that this area is one I don't overspend in.

Household Items
We didn't have specific items we purchased to use in the home but we had a number of expenses to get the home ready to sell. I will detail them below under a new category "moving expenses".

No Cosmetics or Luxury Toiletries
No temptations in this area. The no spend month reaffirmed that my overall spending in this category is on track.

Car Maintenance
No maintenance needed this month. My next oil change wasn't due until early June. Nate ended up selling his car and purchasing a new car in early May with cash. He did buy $49.99 Carfax subscription to assist with his search.

Medical Expenses
This category of our budget always takes up a much larger part than it should. I was able to defer these expenses until May with no problem. Overall we need to increase our budget in this area as it seems most months we have at least $200-$300 in medical expenses with some months as much as $500 or more. I think a good exercise would be to total up medical expenses the past 3 years, get an average, divide it by 12 months and add that into our budget. Going forward $3000-$5000 per year in medical expenses will likely be our norm so we just need to embrace it.

Moving Expenses
This was our biggest deviation from our no spend month. We had a number of large expenses to get the house ready to sell. 
$141 Home Depot
$29.77 Home Depot
$74.83 Walmart
$15.36 Ace Hardware
$73.41 Home Depot
$138 Walmart
$13.37 Home Depot
$3.75 Lowe's
$19.95 Lowe's
$49.69 Target
$19.99 Ace Hardware
$58.82 Walmart
Total $637.94 in the month of April. Including May these expenses totaled closer to $3000 with a brand new water heater the day before the house listed an $300 washing machine repair right when it went under contract.

Miscellaneous
Even with the best of planning you can come across unexpected expenses. Brennan got asked to prom and since we were moving we decided to let him go and cover his tux rental of $110. Brennan's birthday ended up getting moved one weekend early into April due to our house being listed for sale. The expense for his party was $195 including food for 7 and cards for the game they played during the party. Once again more than I typically spend but since he wouldn't be seeing these friends for awhile I let him invite more people. $305 spent in the miscellaneous category on two events: birthday party that was moved from April to May and prom that Brennan wasn't invited to until April.

Bottom Line:
No spend month was a huge exercise in self control and discipline. Lack of self control and discipline is a big reason we've failed at budgeting and failed financially. American culture says get what you want when you want it, you deserve it, and pay for it later. Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University along with YNAB budgeting software really have turned my attitude about money around. We'll never finance a car again. If we want to make a big purchase like a vacation, we save cash first, then go on the trip. Totally life changing. Bringing these other spending habits into line will only help us in the long run. 

Wins:
Our biggest wins were eating out and entertainment. These are huge drains on our monthly budget. In the month of June, admist our big move I have gotten lazy but in July I am going to work to keep this category as close to zero as possible again. Eating at home is healthier and saves money. It just takes a little time and planning. Entertainment is something that can't always be at zero but it pays to be thoughtful about how much we spend in this category, balancing free things with affordable, fun things.

Other things that were easy to not spend money on were toiletries and luxury cosemtics, clothing, household items, and car maintenance. These are all things that I need to spend money on annually but not every month. Going forward I plan to budget these items out for the year so I get a good picture of what we spend each year in these category even if I only purchase these items once every 4-6 months.

Challenges:
Our biggest challenge was finding out we were relocating on short notice. Throughout the months of April and May we spent $3000 getting our house ready to sell. Another challenge was unexpected kid expenses. The biggest one was prom, 2nd biggest one was moving Brennan's party to an earlier date, 3rd was an unplanned field trip. The first two were influenced by our move as well. In a month without a major life change I think we could stay much closer to zero. We plan to try this again soon. Probably in September once our summer travel is done and the kids start school.

Could you do it?
Yes! Anyone can do it. I found our no spend month a great exercise in self control and an eye opening experience to what we truly spend money on. Give it a try. Let me know how you do. Some other great resources I've found on budgeting and finance are Dave Ramsey's book Total Money Makeover and his class Financial Peace University (totally life changing for us). I also really like the budgeting software YNAB and like following their posts and updates on Facebook as they have a similar philosophy of living within your means, saving, and planning for purchases. We're excited to be debt free except our house (good riddance student loans) and to have a fully funded emergency fund after our move. I plan to write more about our journey in the coming months so stay tuned!








Michelle

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Go Toddler Go!


I was given the opportunity to review the Bobux i-walk shoes. i-walk shoes are the perfect shoes for toddlers. The i-Walk line is made for toddlers who are confidently walking and are perfect for running and jumping. Bobux makes tennis shoes, sandals, and boots, making it the perfect shoe for every season. Bobux i-walk shoes are available in toddlers sizes 4.5-11.5 (U.S. equivalent). 

Orion is 3 years old and I have always chosen to purchase him 1-2 pair of quality shoes at a time rather than 10 different pair of shoes to match everything. He's a boy so 1 pair of tennis shoes, 1 pair of snow boots, and 1 pair of sandals. Between those 3 pairs we can get by all year.

Bobux is based out of Castle Rock, Colorado and I love the opportunity to work with another local, Colorado company.

i-walk Attica Flame

Fun, orange and gray shoes

These shoes didn't disappoint! Orion was so excited to put them on and run, run, run. Orion has been wearing them daily for the last couple weeks to preschool both for outdoor playground time and indoor P.E. time and they are working great and holding up well. 

Buying shoes online without trying them on first can be tricky. I used the Bobux i-walk sizing guide provided on their website. Orion measured 6 1/4 inches but I decided to go with the size 27 because he had outgrown his last pair of tennis shoes in 9.5. The 27 is a bit big and the size 26, which was recommended by the sizing chart would have fit him perfectly. My advice is go with the measurement size even if it doesn't correspond to the U.S. shoe size you typically buy your toddler. Even being a little big Orion has been able to wear the shoes just fine and they'll end up lasting him longer.

Happy boy modeling his new shoes


Watch Orion run in his fast, new Bobux shoes!

Check out Bobux's website for their full selection of shoes for babies and toddlers. You can also follow Bobux on Facebook where they partner with other companies each Friday for Friday Freeday giveaways.


I was provided this pair of shoes at no charge in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.


Michelle

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