We’ve started the kids on an allowance. They each have a chore that they must perform, in addition to the regularly expected help around the house. Their allowance is $4 a week. They get two to spend and two to save. They get a possible extra dollar if they do their chores without us having to remind them all week.


The two to spend can be spent on anything they know they’re allowed to have. Right now that seems to be treats out of the vending machine at summer camp. (they’re allowed no more than a dollar a day to bring there so that I can at least limit that spending and treat eating) Younger Boy had about $30 in birthday money and various other earnings. He bought a toy stuffed octopus and a container of ice cream. Tsat ice cream is his. He doesn’t have to share it with anyone, and no one else has ice cream. I still get to dish it out, but he can have it anytime we say they can have a treat. Older Boy bought a computer game that a couple of his favorite YouTubers play with his saved money. They are both happy as clams with their purchases.


As far as the saved money goes, they have to discuss it with us before they take any money out to spend. The point of making them save a portion of their income is to teach them to do that for the rest of their lives, as well as teaching them how quickly that money can add up. Granted, $2 isn’t going to add up that quickly, but it will still add up. They have separate piggy banks for the different “accounts”. They each also have wallets for carrying money. Younger Boy’s wallet doesn’t actually fit in his pockets, but he really wanted one, so we got him one.


We’ve tried allowances before and they never stuck because we never had the money in our wallets to pay the kids. So, I went and got money out of savings, all in ones, for their allowances. This time there is no excuse for not paying them. They’re old enough now to understand that they need to work to get paid and to want to spend their money on things. That was the other piece that was missing before – we bought them everything they wanted, so money didn’t mean much to them. With this newest budget, there’s not a lot of money left over for treats and presents, they’re going to have to buy their own if they want them. Cool.

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Food prep

I found a list of entrees we like that I made a couple of years ago. It’s a whole page of choices. We tend toward the same few these days and I’m going to need to get a little more creative if we’re going to eat at home from now on. Goodness knows I have enough cookbooks. At last count I have about 15. Now it’s time to explore them instead of just collecting them.

We’re starting to make the boys eat what we’re eating, including veggies. They complain mightily, but they either eat it or don’t eat. They usually eat the bits they like then complain and take forever over the veggies until we finally give up and say they only need to take a couple more bites. I am walking a fine line between what we like and what the boys will eat. Balsamic chicken might be pushing my luck a bit even though Hu0bby and I like it. Older Boy has the partial desire to become vegetarian, but realizes that he doesn’t like many veggies and that most of his diet right now is meat. I am still working on variety and veggies, but I’m starting to get there. Really, he likes meat but acknowledges that there might be a problem with it. That’s cool. It’s a start. I’m never going to push it, but I’ve discussed it with him and given my reasons in an age appropriate manner. I’ve never shown him video of how the animals are treated or anything. He’s a compassionate soul, he might get there. If he doesn’t that’s his choice and I’m cool with it. We are going to be exploring vegetable choices with him though. The weirdo doesn’t like corn! Who doesn’t like corn?! Oh well. We’ll figure something out.


I’m going to have to update that list of entrees though. It’s a good place to start. We’ve added a couple and gotten rid of a couple, maybe it’s time to add them back. In any case, we are going to have to get more variety going for all of our sakes.


For a while I had planned out lunches and dinners and it was great. No more searching for what to eat, I could make it calorie correct, and I could add variety if I felt like it. Usually I didn’t mind eating the same couple of things for lunches, as long as I had variety for dinner. I need to start that again. Especially if I want to start losing weight again. My diet’s been in the cruddy zone for a few weeks now. Time to get back on the good side of myself and stop feeling cruddy, too.



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Spending Fast

Well, it’s not going as well as I’d like. I ended up spending close to $200 on groceries. Then, today I had to go buy a new alarm clock. Mine, which was originally Hubby’s from before we met, has finally quit on me. Over 20 years later, it’s finally only alarming sporadically. Not a bad run though. Besides that, we had pizza a couple of nights ago because I tend not to meal plan for weekends. I need to do better about that now that we’re going to be eating home a lot more often. Next time we want pizza, I’m going to have to make it. I still have the recipe from the Tightwad Gazette for the pizza crust, and a food processor to make it in. Pretty yummy.


We had to get rid of the particleboard armoire that we’d been using as a pantry because some soda spilled who knows how long ago and had molded in the back corner. It weakened the whole thing so we had to disassemble it and clean. We went out and got a shelving unit instead. We needed something there because there just isn’t enough storage in the kitchen for pots, pans, plastic storage tubs, and all of my small electrics (blender, mixer, food processor, chopper, griddle, and all the rest). So the electrics are on the shelves along with the big bags of animal food. It works. And it looks better than the armoire did. But, that’s another expense.


The spending fast isn’t going well so far. But it’s only been a few days. I can still pull this off. Hubby actually suggested we not spend anything this week so that we have enough money to last the pay period. He’s on board whether he admits it or not; he wants my plan to succeed. Really he just wants enough money left over to last the pay period and allow us to have a little fun. Not a problem. He’s willing to do a Sunday meal prep for the week to keep from spending, and I’m willing to keep to the house doing housework and reading for the week. We’ll get this done.


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Reading trends

Here lately I have been all over the place in my reading. I read a personal finance book, followed by two fantasy novels, and now I’m reading a business book, Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office. My thought process is that, if I can go into my career with the skills I need to succeed, it’s going to save me a lot of pain down the road when I have to learn these things that hard way. I’m reading about presence and mistakes women make in business. I’m reading about how to balance my personality with professionalism. I’m also taking it all with a grain of salt. I can’t just be a cookie cutter business woman. For one thing, that’s not the environment I’m going into. For another, I refuse to change who I am at a basic level just to get promotions. I will still be me, I’d just like to be a professional and confident me at work.


Anyway, my reading has been eclectic to be sure. I usually get on theme kicks. Personal finance, homesteading and home care, horror, sci-fi/fantasy, self-help. I will read a ton on that specific topic for a month or more. For me to skip around like this is strange. I’m loving it though. I don’t feel like I’m constrained by any genre. I’m reading through the books that are in my TBR pile and some of the new ones that I bought more recently. I am still interested in personal finance and home stuff and all of that, I’m just threading some other interest through as well. I know it’s how normal people read, but I’m just now trying it out for the first time since I don’t know when.


Goodness knows I have a variety of books waiting for me in my pile. Business, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, finance, accounting textbooks, non-fiction, self-help… I’ve got them all. If I can keep going wherever my feelings take me with the end of each book, I think I’ll get a lot more out of them all. After a while, all the personal finance stuff starts to sound the same. There are a lot of conflicting self-help books as well. It gets hard to keep all of the differing theories apart and figure out which ones might work best for me. If I can skip around a bit, it might be easier to digest each book. We’ll see how long this lasts though. I am a creature of habit after all.

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Oh Ye Of Little Faith!

Hubby doesn’t believe in my vision. He cruelly pointed out all the times in the past I’ve tried to keep us on this tight a budget and how miserably it’s failed in the past. Meanie! What he doesn’t take into account is how much my mindset has changed since the last time we tried this. I have a definite goal and a definite deadline. I have incentive to get this done. I have a plan on how to spend and the willingness to try. I know enough about myself to know that I am a reflexive spender. I talk about saving then immediately go out and spend $60 on some stuff that we may or may not need, but certainly not right now. It’s almost like I feel as if just talking about saving is deprivation and I need to prove to myself that I still have money.


I recently had a breakthrough with my food. It’s taking some work to implement, but it’s a huge one. Rather than telling myself that I can’t have something, I am telling myself that I choose not to have it. It’s a fine, but important, distinction. If I tell myself can’t have it, I am not in control of the decision, some outside force is. If I tell myself that I choose not to have it, I am in control of the decision and it just became a thousand times easier to do what I know I should. I’m not trying to rebel against an authority that doesn’t even exist. I need to get into that same mindset with money. Saving money isn’t about deprivation and all the things I can’t have, it’s about a choice to save or spend my money on more important things. That choice is all mine.


I need to remind myself that we are actually doing fine. We could send less to the debt and still get it paid off (just not within my ideal timeframe), and we’d still be sending quite a lot. That might help with the reflexive spending part of this. I will be spending a lot more time reading and finally watching some of the series on Netflix that I’ve heard so much about or have wanted to see. Eventually I’ll start work. That’ll help since I won’t be home as much to get bored and want to go out and spend money to alleviate the boredom.


As it stands, Hubby is willing to try, but not willing to curtail his spending too much. He still wants to be able to get what he wants, when he wants it. I want to be able to give him that but within the bounds of my tight budget. That just means that I’ll have to be great about saving on necessities so that we have more for fun. I’ve already budgeted some for his favorite recurring expense, but I need to make sure that I’m doing my best to save. I know, this sounds horrible. I need to cut down on what I spend so that my husband can spend whatever he wants. It’s not exactly like that. This is my spending fast. I never intended for it to affect him too much. I want him to rein in reasonably, and he absolutely will, but I am doing a complete spending fast for my own sake. I need to learn to better manage money for me. That reflexive spending has to go. So, no, this isn’t about me being the submissive little wifey. This is about me being the one who spends the most by an order of magnitude and learning to cut back and manage our money rather than just spending whatever, whenever. He is on board with paying off the credit and the car and the house, he just doesn’t think we need to be quite so strict. He may be right, but I want to give this a try for a while and see what we can do with it.

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Needs based spending

This is the first real paycheck in our new budget style of sending a ton of money to the card. I sent a ton of money to it a few weeks ago, but since then we’ve had a vacation that was hedonistic to say the least. I’m starting my spending fast with this check as well. I will be spending on needs only from here until eternity it feels like, but it’s only a year. I fully expect that Hubby will want to go out to eat at some point or go to the movies, and we’ll do that, but I won’t be the one to suggest it. We do have some play money left over after bills are paid and necessities are taken care of, but I’m going to try not to spend any of it.


I focus a lot on meal planning because that’s the last area besides books that I really spend a lot on. Books are out unless I trade them in for credit. No new books, even from the thrift store. That’s going to hurt but needs must. Food is going to be from the list and once a week. I’m going to start taking inventory of the pantry and freezer each week to see what we’re running low on and be a devotee of the sale ads. I’m all caught up on laundry, so now is a good time to recommit to hanging it again. I have a nice, sturdy garment rack that does an admirable job of holding an entire load. I have plenty of hangars, too. No excuses. I will use up my reserves of store bought cleaners (laundry and dish soaps), and then start making them again. This time I’ll make them in large quantities so that the ingredients don’t all get rock hard and unusable again.


I spent a lot of time and money shopping in the past. Even lately I’ve been shopping more than I had in the last year or so. I’m going to have to stop cold turkey. I have made out a list of needs vs. wants based on the reverse budgeting that I did with the Debt-Free Living book. All those little bitty $4 to $11 purchases on Amazon really added up. I have deleted the Amazon app from my tablet. No more shopping to pass the time.


I can’t believe I got back into that habit! Just goes to show what happens when you lose focus. It was sneaky, too. We had more money available because I was paying minimums to the debt. I started buying things with coupons which is always bad for me. I will buy things just because I have a coupon for them, or I buy ready-made things rather than take the time to make them myself for way less money (like the soaps). I collected coupons and bought a ton of something even though it wasn’t actually on sale. “But I have a coupon!”. I stopped meal planning and paying attention to what we ate. I started shopping for whatever I wanted rather than what we actually needed. Soon enough I was back to my old spendthrift ways. That wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have debt, but we do. Paying the minimums was never going to get us out of debt. It’s never a good idea.


For now, we are sending a hefty portion of our paychecks to paying off the credit card, and I’m going to learn to be vigilant even after we’re debt free. For now, we are going to pay off $11,887.51 in debt and save $10,050 before we move. That’s the goal and I will accomplish it. We need to give a carpet allowance with the house because the carpets weren’t great when we got the place and they’ve been through 11 years, several animals, and two kids. Carpet allowance ahoy!

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We got a new kitten a week ago.



Her name is Myra, she’s two months old, and she weighs in at 2.5 pounds (1 kg or so). The shoes in the background are Younger Boy’s size 3’s. The black blob in the foreground is the back of a lap desk. So far she’s doing well. She’s gotten accustomed to the house and Dasher, the king of the house (our 15 pound cat who is the loviest boy in the world), seems to be getting used to her as well. Kayla, the dog, isn’t fazed by her at all. And, we’re dog-sitting my in-law’s girl as well. Four animals in the house and I love it. Who knew I was such an animal person. Cats especially. Hubby gave his grudging consent after we came back from vacation. He thinks she’s cute, he just won’t admit it. The kids didn’t know about it until I brought her home. (I didn’t want them arguing over which animal to get and that sort of thing so I went by myself and fell in love with that little face)


I know, I was talking about saving money as soon as we got back from the trip, and the next day I went out and got a kitten. More vet bills and food (although I bought the giant bag so she should be good until she grows out of it). In my defense, I’ve wanted another cat for a really long time; she was not an impulse adoption. We got her from a shelter and they were even having a sale on kittens! She cost all of $25. Of course the vet bill to get her checked out and started on her vaccinations was WAY more than that, but that’s OK. She’s worth it. She’s not much for petting, but she sure likes to snuggle!

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Book review: Debt-Free Living

tl;dr: This post is crazy long. Sorry! The book is good and it’s going on my keeper shelf.


I just finished reading The Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living, by Anna Newell Jones. It’s about her journey with, and how to do, a year-long spending fast. She’s one of those miraculous people I was talking about, who paid off over $18,000 in debt in a year on a $33,000 a year salary. I just don’t even know how she did it even though she kind of takes you through it and I’ve read enough books by enough people who’ve done the same thing to know most of the tricks. It’s so impressive every time I read it. Not nearly as impressive when someone who makes $100,000 a year pays off $50,000 in debt. It’s a lot but you feel like they should be able to do it.


The book was good. She takes you step by step through several situations and how to start your fast. She reminds you to keep going over your needs vs. wants list and adjusting it; it’s not a static thing. She gives encouragement on how to take it a step further and generate new income by taking up a side hustle or selling the things that you no longer want. She is very cool in that she realizes that some things are needs that you wouldn’t traditionally expect. Gym memberships that you actually use and get a lot out of, for her it was also photography equipment and shows. But she points out that there are ways to save on those things as well. Just be careful and don’t put things on your needs list just because they make things easier or you like them. She goes through needs vs. wants quite well. She also advises you to tell everyone you can that you’re doing a spending fast. It will keep you accountable.


She advises a “reverse budget” which I like better than the spending tracking that other books suggest. I’ve always kind of agreed with her that you’ll change the way you spend if you all of the sudden start writing everything down. She advises getting out the last three months’ bank statements and credit card statements and using those to figure out where your money goes. I started this exercise and quit after the first two weeks of the first month. I discovered that in two weeks I’d spent $80 on Amazon, we’d spent $80 at 7-11 on grocery-type things (mostly tobacco for Hubby and things like milk when we’re too lazy to go the extra half mile to the store), and $80 on pizza. In two weeks! That was enough to show me where we needed to cut back. I glanced through the next two months and it was pretty much more of the same. Ridiculous. We do all of our purchasing on the debit card – neither one of us keeps actual cash on us anymore really – so it was easy to see where the money went. I went through the rest of the month looking specifically at grocery and bills and discovered that I’d spent $700 on groceries. What the heck?! That was before I started meal planning and shopping from a list more often. I’m afraid to look at this month’s grocery spending because I stocked up on meat. I’m betting it will rival that month’s by the time we’re done.


Anyway, She advises a strange way of doing your money. She doesn’t like to budget, so she says that you zero out your bank account every time. The first month send minimums to everything. After that, everything that’s left over at the end of the month goes to the first debt you’re paying off (she advises highest interest rate first or, if you have one that’s been really hanging over your conscience, pay that one first – like a loan from your parents or something) on the last day of the month (or pay period. She gets paid once a month so that’s how it works for her). That puts your balance at zero when you get paid. Pay all of your bills, including minimums to all of your debts, and figure out how much you need for everything else (using the averages you got from reverse budgeting over three months). Now try to do better. See where you can cut expenses and save money. When you have money left at the end of the period, send it to the first debt that you’re paying off.


This sounds good, but I tend to spend to the last dollar. Maybe I need to try it her way. I kind of am planning on it actually. I have given us a certain (lower than usual) amount per paycheck and I’m going to try to spend even less than that. But let’s be honest, any less that I spend will go toward fun stuff. And that’s OK with me. I have already cut our prospective spending by $800 a month. That’s a huge amount. We don’t need to cut any more than that. With Hubby’s retirement contributions going to the debt for the next year as well, we’re going to get it paid off just as quickly as I’d like.


In the meantime, I am going to have to go on a year-long spending fast. This book was nice in its motivational force. Hubby doesn’t want to do it, so I won’t make him. I’m budgeting in money for him, but I do the majority of the shopping for the family. I need to rein it in. I tend to spend freely at the grocery store because, after all, you need to eat, right? I still do it sometimes, though not as often. I’m getting better at meal planning and shopping sales. When I forget or just don’t meal plan for the week, it’s really obvious. We flounder (so to speak) trying to find things to eat, and that’s when we order pizza or just let the kids eat chicken strips all week. Bad Mommy! But, with proper planning and once-a-week shopping, we’ll spend less and get everything we need for meals for the week. Once again, I’m starting a book moratorium, too. I have plenty but I’ve been buying them more and more lately. That’s part of where that $80 at Amazon went.



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Debt confession

I grew up a spender. When we wanted something, we got it if it was reasonable. I kept doing that even though I didn’t have the kind of money that my parents did after 30 years of working. I am fighting against a lifetime of spendthriftery. If nothing else, this should be good for me by forcing me to learn how to say no to myself. To pause before I spend. I have struggled with this tendency to spend without thinking for a few years now. Before that I didn’t see it as a problem. I just figured debt was something everyone had all the time and that it was totally normal and acceptable. Then our debt reached around $15,000 on the credit card and two car payments and I started worrying a lot. I started reading about how to pay it down since I didn’t seem to be able to figure it out on my own. That’s where all this started about three years ago, I think. Now we’re almost back to square one. The difference this time is that I’m optimistic. I know it’s possible to pay this all off and be debt free. I just need to learn from my mistakes this time and not fall right back into my old spending habits as soon as we’re out from under this.


Hear me out… Hubby makes a lot of money. He was in the Navy for 20 years as a nuclear mechanic. He has been working another five years as an instructor of radiological control for the military as a civilian. He makes enough money that there really is no reason for us to be in debt except that we tend to go overboard on things. When it was time to redo the roof, we decided that, since it needed to be done anyway at some point, we’d redo the siding and windows as well, even though we couldn’t afford it all at once. Credit! Little things here and there that we don’t actually have the money for right now, credit! We were actually out of debt totally for about three months at one point. But, we went overboard on the house and got back into debt. Once there, it was easy to say, “Oh, this little thing won’t matter!” It adds up over time and we found ourselves in debt big time again. I am not one of those miraculous people who is getting out of deep debt on a $30,000 a year salary. I have all the respect in the world for them and they impress the heck out of me. It is from them that I am learning and taking inspiration. But, we are working with quite a bit more money. I almost feel bad admitting it, like it’s somehow something to be ashamed of in the frugal community. But, I want to get out of debt just as much as anyone else does. It weighs on me just like it does everyone else.


Here’s the thing, we have $11,887.51 in credit card debt, and another $34,095.97 in the auto loan. The car will be paid off in five and a half years making regular payments. The credit card we’re working on. I know I’ve never talked about actual numbers here before but I figured it was time to get serious. We are lucky in that we have enough money to be able to pay this all back relatively quickly. It’ll take a few years to get the car loan gone, but we’ll be able to pay off the credit card in seven months (six with overtime from Hubby). My goal is to send $1,675 a month to the card. That’s using Hubby’s retirement money, and scraping every other cent I reasonably can from our budget. That leaves us with about $250 in actual play money (for two weeks) after the groceries, gas, bridge tolls, and the like are taken care of. That may seem like a lot, but it’s less than half of what we’re used to. I have cut our regular budget by $400 a pay period to afford to send that much to the credit card. That’s a huge cut. While I’m not on an official spending fast yet, I’m going to have to get there pretty quickly to make this work right.


So, that’s our situation and where we sit. We’re going to be living off of what, for us is, very little for the next year to be able to pay off the credit card then save money for the move. The good thing is that it’s possible to get this done. Once we get this year taken care of and we’re in the new house, we’ll start working on the car loan, starting a savings account, and paying off the house itself. That alone will take at least 18 years, but it’d sure be nice to not have a house payment. We don’t really see any reason to move from the next house ever. We’ll be in it at least for the next 10 years, until the kids are out of high school. We won’t have it paid off in that time, but we’ll have a good start on it.


It’s still really strange to me to be thinking this far out with our money. I never used to think past the next paycheck. But having goals makes it easier to do what we need to do now. Now if I can just get the impulse spending under control, we’ll be in a much better position.



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Hello again!

Hello there! I’m back online. I wasn’t just away from tech for a week, we went on our summer vacation! It was a blast. We went to Great Wolf Lodge, a resort with a whole waterpark inside! There are about eight water slides, a huge water spewing fort to climb around on, a lazy river, a wave pool, a pool with four basketball hoops and about a dozen balls floating around, and that’s all indoors. There is also a bowling alley for kids, an arcade, a kids and an adults spa, a ropes course, mini-golf, four different quests for the kids to go on (spanning four floors of the hotel but not near the rooms so the kids don’t disturb guests with their questing), and several places to get food. We went for 6 days and only left the property to buy more books to read on our downtime. It was amazing and it’s our go-to vacation for the next several years I think. We went to the water park twice a day at the insistence of Younger Boy, and we got discount passes that gave us a whole bunch of the side stuff for reduced prices (like 30% off). It was a $2500 trip for a week, but we had a blast and it was totally worth it. We had $2000 saved for it so we put most of it on the credit card, but we had to dip into that savings to pay for the balance of the trip, and we’ve decided to leave $1000 of it in savings for a bumper fund (it worked out really well for us last time). So, we’ve sent $500 to the credit card, but we’ll still be able to pay off the card, it’ll just take an extra month (or some extra overtime by Hubby).



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