5 Things Friday 1/20/2017

  1.  This will be our 3rd weekend in a row at home! I am so excited but I also realize that it will be our last weekend with limited to no plans for a while.  The big plan for the weekend is to take down my Snow Village.
  2. Yesterday, my mother had her final appointment and received her completed artificial leg. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief. This process stared on June 9th, 2016 when she fell and broke her hip.
  3. I was able to spend a little time outside yesterday and I am so excited to discovery that my mint is surviving and growing. I still have oregano growing as well as some rosemary. I am very hopeful that my dill will reappear this year as well. If not having these two herbs survive the winter saves at least $10.
  4. Our heat pump was not heating as well as we thought it should be over the last very cold spell. Today, we found out that we have a 10 year warranty on the unit and other parts which last until June 2018.  Our auxiliary heat strips were not working so we ended up paying $80 in labor. I am so thankful this was not a bigger expense.
  5. Matt and I both continue to work daily on our app to make money. So far this month things are slower than December but we have still managed to cash out $100 with at least another $50 expected before the end of the month.

Dinning Room Cabinet

This is the first of what I think will be 3 custom cabinet that I have envisioned for our dining room.  This is a very functional cabinet so I am so excited about it. I will admit that I had originally planned one day to complete this task which including the electric wiring from the breaker box of 4 new outlets. This project ended up taking us 2 full days to complete. The most exciting part of this is the cost. We spent ZERO out of pocket for this. Here are the details on how we accomplished this. First we salvaged the hinges and handles from the cabinets that were removed several weeks ago. Next we used gift cards to Lowes that we earned via swagbucks.  I am so excited to share this first step in the dining room.

step one, including wiring of the new outlets

step one, including wiring of the new outlets

Complete frame for the cabinet

Complete frame for the cabinet

Adding the shelves

Adding the shelves, check out the mess on the floor I want to hide.

front view

front view

side view

side view

final project..... It looks so simple and clean!

final project….. It looks so simple and clean!

Goal Update-

I had planned to post pictures of the “tower” that we are building in the Dinning room to house our internet including firewall and router. However this project is taking longer than expected so I will anticipate sharing those pictures as soon as it is finished.  I have had some time to reflect back on 2016 especially in the area of our finances. Since I don’t have pictures to share, I thought this would be a good place to share some of my observations, along with updates regarding my goals for the month.

First let’s talk food. Last year, we spent a total of $7884.51, which averages out to be $657 a month. This amount is actually less than the $700 a month that I began the year with. It really surprised me to learn that it is almost $40 less a month than our spending in 2015.  We have also significantly reduced the amounts we are spending on eating out. I order pizza on Friday night and used gift cards to pay for it. While eating and talking, we realized this was the first “take out pizza” we had eaten in six months! I shared several time that I was participating in an “eat out of your pantry challenge.” I am excited to say that as of today, my pantry floor is empty!  I initially set my goal to spend $100 or less on food for the month. I have change this to $150 or less. The reason for the change is that I purchased 40# of chicken breast to be picked up the end of February.  This week is the most difficult for me as we are starting to run out of the “normal” convenient meals but I am determined to make it work for the month. So far I have spent $131.11.  I did go to both Food Lion and Aldi today. Aldi will be closing for the next six weeks and I wanted to grab a couple of items for our Super Bowl party.  I have spent some time over the past few weeks looking at our budget and working on ways to make it work for us. My goal for the year is to spend  $550 a month or less on groceries.  Small action steps including eating out of the pantry and purchasing only the items we are out of until March this year.

The second challenge that I have decided to participate in is No Spend/Low Spend month.  I am excited to say that so far this month, I have not paid for any extra items.  The biggest reason for this is gift cards. Matt and I both are using several different strategies to make extra money. Most of the apps and Swagbucks rewards are paid in gift cards. I have been collecting and using these gift cards instead of spending money from our budget. So far this has been paying off. I know that February will be an expensive month because we have a cheer competition every weekend except the last one. However I need to focus on one month at a time. So January is a success.

A final note is that we will continue to budget $300 a month for gas and other vehicle expenses. I anticipate meeting this goal simply because both of our vehicles are in good repair and should not require additional spending this year.

5 Things Friday

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  1. Today is my first paycheck of the year.  We have started out on a much better foot than last year. We will be using cash only for purchase this year.  I am determined to make a huge dent in our debit while continuing to enjoy activities including vacations with our family.
  2. The kids have missed three days this week due to the snow. I ended up with several short days.
  3. My parents watch the little kids this evening while both Matt and I worked. I was able to purchase pizza for dinner using gift cards from Mplaces/Cricket. I forgotten how good free food taste.
  4. One of my goal this year is to sort through all of our pictures that are currently stored in several different places. So far, I am making good progress with the cabinet over my desk completed. I hope to sort out a filing cabinet that we stored in the bathroom 4 years agl.
  5. We are continuing to work on getting our dining room together. I am hoping to share pictures of our progress tomorrow.

Menu Planning

Today is Snow Day #2 for us.  The kids school has already been cancelled for tomorrow and I would bet a delay or closure again on Tuesday. I have a really short day at work tomorrow to begin with so even if I go regular schedule, we should still enjoy another day with extra time at home.  I feel very confident and satisfied with our breakfast choices. I am also extremely hopefully to keep our grocery budget less than $100 this month as we have finally completed a plan for the month.  You will notice more elaborate, read time consuming, meals at the beginning of the week.

Breakfast–   Saturday- pancakes. Sunday- French toast  Monday-Egg muffins Tuesday-  baked oatmeal Wednesday- choices. Thursday-  Choices Friday- Choices.  Saturday- Pancakes Choices include : pancakes, baked oatmeal,  eggs, grits, French toast, toast or cereal.

Lunch- Zach and Kendall have chicken and stars soup, chicken nuggets, ham and cheese roll up, homemade lunchable and chips w/salsa. I am taking left-overs this week.

Dinner-  Saturday- Chicken Stew Dinner- Chicken Stew.
Sunday- Lunch- personal pizza on bread Dinner- shoulder roast with carrots and potatoes, deviled eggs and broccoli corn bread.
Monday- Copy cat lettuce wraps
Tuesday- Alice Springs chicken with sweet potatoes and pineapple
Wednesday-  Sloppy joes and FF
Thursday- Stuffed green peppers
Friday- Leftovers or pizza.

Matt will be going to pick up buns for our sloppy joes along with eggs this week before our local Aldi closes for remodeling.

Saving on Saturday 1/07/2017

sosToday was officially a snow day in NC, that definitely helped with the saving as our cheerleading competition was cancelled which at minimum saved us $30 in admission.

I mentioned that I am participating in  a low spend challenge, I have budgeted $100 for groceries this month. I did spend $14 on Monday at CVS and my plan was to hold on to the rest until it was a need. The need and some wants found me on Thursday, I went to our local Aldi to grab some plastic wrap and realized that they will be closing next week for 6-8 weeks of  construction. We decided to go ahead and grab some items that will be needed before March. We spent a total of $42.  The need that came about today is for labelling tape, so another $5 on Amazon. My totals are now at $61 for the month which leaves an $39 for any need that may arise.

The second challenge is Eat from your pantry.  This is actually a very easy and doable challenge as we have a pantry full in addition to several full freezers.  We have actually have two full weekends at home, thanks to the snow, therefore I have been trying to stock up on some prepared foods that we really like and can use during the hectic weeks ahead. Last week in my menu plan, I share how we started this process.  This weekend, I have already made a huge pot of chicken stew, which we ate for two meal before freezing the remainder for a quick dinner.  This morning, Matt made a triple batch of pancakes and the plan is to make French toast in the morning. This should definitely help with breakfast in the next couple of weeks. I am planning to share our menu plan, once we decide on it for next week.

We have started working on making our now dinning room more functional.  I am determined not to let this project take over either time wise or financially this year, so small steps. We mover our smallest refrigerator to the outside building, which allowed us to re-position the black refrigerator, removed the cabinets that we hung last year, and placed a shelf back over the black refrigerator for storage. During the process we had to paint the wall.  I am proud to say that this was all completed without spending anything.  Before sending the cabinets to the dump, we removed the hinges and handles which are going to be reused for the custom buffet I want to complete. I was able to earn a $50 gift card to Lowes last month and Matt grab a $25 one this month. These should allow us to place new electrically and build a “tower” for the internet and cable that comes into the house in this area. The current goal is to have this completed by the end of January with zero out of pocket.  In an effort to make goals that are achievable this year, I am going to wait till then to look ahead at the next step.

5 Things Friday-01/06/2017

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  1. It is currently snowing in North Carolina. This is honestly, one of the best kind of snows. Today is Friday and the snow did not begin until around 4pm so I was still safe driving home at 5:30. We are expecting all snow and no ice. We are all home for the weekend so the kids can enjoy a couple of day playing in snow and I don’t have to worry about heading toe work .
  2. Lily’s second cheer competition of the season has been cancelled due to the snow. She was really excited about going but I am glad to have some more down time.
  3. We filled our freezer with beef on Wednesday. It was about what I expected in regards to quantity. I was pleasantly surprised at the taste and tenderness of it. We will continue to stock up the freezer this weekend so I have no plans to venture anywhere until at least Monday.
  4. One of the fun task I accomplished today was to start planning our Disney trip in November. It is always fun to research options and decide which day to spend in which park in addition to thinking about where we want to eat each day.
  5. Yesterday, I realized that our local Aldi store is closing to remodel for six weeks beginning next week. I was planning to limit our grocery spending for both January and February, without this convenient store, this task will be easier. I did however grab some items to keep her for the next several months. Total spent $42.57 which still leaves me with $45 to spend out of my $100 grocery budget for January.

Menu Planning

I mentioned in yesterday post that I am attempting to participate in two separate but very related challenges this month, No Spend January and Eat from the Pantry. Today I want to share the most important thing that will help us achieve both of these planning. This is actually a two part process, first is making food ahead of time and the second is planning and using the meals.

Part of the time I spent for my three day weekend is cooking ahead. On Saturday, we made 6 batches of pork fried rice using left over BBQ from Christmas.  We ate one of these for dinner on Saturday. On Sunday, we made taco rice and cheeseburger pies. On Monday, we made Salisbury steaks and mashed potatoes. We were able to use pull out raw hamburger from our freezer. Which was very helpful due to the fact we are receiving the cow I purchased in December this week.

The final step in this process is Menu Planning. There is a slight increase in the need for this with attempting to eat out of our pantry.  Here is our plan…

Breakfast–   Saturday- grits, eggs and  bacon . Sunday- Donuts  Monday-Baked Oatmeal  Tuesday-  fried bologna and eggs Wednesday- choices. Thursday-  Choices Friday- Choices.  Saturday- Pancakes Choices include : leftovers, eggs, grits, French toast,, toast or cereal.

Lunch- Zach and Kendall have chicken and stars soup, chicken nuggets, ham and cheese roll up, homemade lunchable and chips w/salsa. I am taking left-overs this week.

Dinner-  Saturday- Lunch- left overs  Dinner- Pork Fried Rice and egg roll.
Sunday- Lunch- Shrimp Gumbo in crockpot (kielbasa and shrimp, both from freezer) Dinner-  left-overs
Monday- Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and fruit
Tuesday- Steaks and salad
Wednesday-  Chicken cacciatore (found in freezer) and pasta
Thursday- Broccoli and cheese soup in crockpot
Friday- Leftovers or pizza.

I did have to make a quick trip to CVS this week for a total of $14.45 out of our grocery budget.

 

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

I have not had time over the past several day to go back and review the goals I had set for 2016.  I know that I did not meet any of the goals on a consistent basis. I am sad but realistically I know that goals are just that something to aspire to achieve. I am often remained of our wedding verse Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   Our goals and God’s plans are not always the same and it is my firm belief that his plans are always much better in the end than my goals. None of the goals that I established were bad but that were just not achievable for 2016.  I will share that 2016 was the hardest and leanest year of our marriage on a financial level. I have been able to look back and identify some of the problems so that should help the coming year.  With all that written out, I am officially closing the door on 2016 and looking ahead to 2017.  I am still unsure if I am going to make goals for 2017 as I really get discouraged when I have to write “failed” each month but I also like the accountability that it provides. So for now, I am going to share on what I have been up to and how that affects my plans/goals for 2017.

Christmas 2015 made it very evident that we need to come up with some major changes in our kitchen in order for us to host our family and friend in an enjoyable environment. In January, we started the kitchen remodel which included the old kitchen and living room which was being used as a playroom. We spent 5 month removing a walk and reworking most of the area. We stop due to money and energy. This past weekend we have started working again. We used our “dining room’ on Christmas Day and it worked well but I still wanted to make some changes.  First we moved our smallest refrigerator to the building and pulled down the cabinets from around the second one. We are planning to build a custom buffet over the next couple of months for housing all the electronic/internet cable connect and also providing some additional storage space. I will try to share pictures as things start to progress.

We purchased a cow in December and are expecting to pick up the meat this week. I was able to clean out our chest freezer so that the meat will be easy to deal with upfront.

We are going to work diligently this year to regain our financial ground, two years ago we were debit free except for our mortgage, I wont to get closer to that point again. One of the bright spots in the area of finances in December has been our “extra earns” via swagbucks and MPlaces.  We have cashed out for over $300 in gift cards during December.  I am reading in several different places that January is typically a slow earning month so I am going to celebrate December success but also remember that small steps are still progress. I have decided to participate in several challenges in January in order to hopefully jump start our year. The first is a pantry challenge, we are planning to limit our grocery spending to less than $100 for the month. I have been doing some cleaning over the past couple of day and this should not be a problem. The second challenge goes along with the first and is a no spend month. We will be attending two cheer competition this month but otherwise no unnecessary spending.   Who else is hoping to achieve good things in 2017?