Monday, December 28, 2015

2016 Garden Planning

I'm starting to receive seed magazines in the mail so it brings me to planning for next year.  Every year since we've lived here, I've set a goal of planting at least 2 perennial plants.  Some have made it and others haven't but I keep going because the planning, planting, pampering and seeing if it took is an exciting part of the gardening process for me.

Two years ago I planted two apple trees, Sweet Sixteen and Honeycrisp.  The Honeycrisp died last year so I plan to replace that.  My strawberries and raspberries were doing very well last year so I'm hoping they come back.  Two years ago we planted honeyberries (similar to a blueberry but don't require acidic soil) and they are doing well.  Our asparagus patch was doing exceptionally well last year also so I hope I'm through the worst with that.  The hardest part is establishing the asparagus patch.  We also planted currants last year that were doing well.  We already have established plum trees here and I planted mulberry trees a few years back.

I've tried planting goji berries and they died the first year, prior to winter even.  I've also tried planting hardy kiwi but that didn't make it.  I tried planting black raspberries and the plants lived but never produced any fruit.  Maybe I will still get something from that.

This year I am thinking I would like to try planting cherries and blackberries.  We love blackberries and they are expensive.  I found a blackberry grower who swears his plants are good to zone 2 so they should be good here.  I'm willing to give it a try.  Our neighbors have a beautiful cherry tree that inspired me to plant a cherry tree.

I'm still tossing around the idea of planting goji berries.  They are supposed to be very healthy and should grow here.  I've also toyed with the idea of planting grapes but I think those are more labor intensive.

Thoughts?  Ideas?  Suggestions?  Any other zone 3/4 gardeners out there?


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas Eve!!

I'm curled up on the couch with Lil G watching cartoons.  Y took Punk into town with him so we could take a nap.  Lol.  He knows what makes me happy.  We are going to go sledding behind the four wheeler when he gets home.  Then we will have crab legs and ravioli for dinner.  We will open gifts after that.

My boss usually gives me a cheesy Christmas decoration that I usually regift or donate.  This year she gave me Quelf, the party game.  I plan on bringing it with tomorrow to my in-laws house.  We should have a good time with it.  I love games and I wish she would just gift a game every year instead of decorations if she plans on a gift.

We're still processing the diagnosis.  Hard decisions are in the future.  As the most responsible kid in his family, Y will have to step up and help with many decisions and executions.  My job will be to support all of them.

Merry Christmas to all my blogging friends!   Give your loved ones an extra hug or two today if you can :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Careful What You Wish For

I think we finally got a diagnosis for my father-in-law.  It sounds like he has ALS.  I didn't realize that the prognosis is that terrible for ALS but it is.  3 years on average.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

2015 Goal Update

I'm able to call success or fail on all but one goal for this year.

  • Increase retail account to $50,000--fail.  As of last month is was 44,380.  I've added about $800 this month but it won't reach 50k.
  • Keep grocery budget to $600 a month--fail!  Closer to $700
  • Pay off pick-up--Yes!!  The last of our consumer debt!!
  • Increase retirement account to $150,000--not sure till I get my end of year statements but probably pass--was at $152,366 on 12/1.
  • Save $1000 in cash--pass!!
  • Pay $1000 to mortgage every month--pass!!  I actually increased this to $1110 this summer so we will have it paid when Y is 58.
  • Run a 5k--Success!!  I so wanted to quit running but my goal was to run it, not walk/run.
  • Get to and maintain weight of 130--fail!!  I'm currently at 137-138 and I've stepped up my efforts.  I feel better at 132.
  • Go camping 2 times--pass
  • One date night or lunch per month--didn't keep track but prob fail
  • Plant 2 new trees, shrubs, nuts or berries -- yes!  We planted raspberries, more strawberries, and black currants for perennials
Overall, I'm happy with the year.  We hit most of our financial goals and most of the personal goals.  Most of all, it was a fun year as a family.  I look forward to 2016!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Payday Financials

I'm so thankful today is payday.  I've felt completely disorganized as of late.  With the exception of groceries and household items, I feel like I've been a very busy beaver spending money.  I suppose that Christmas is the main culprit but I was feeling like it would never stop.  I also had booked our hotel for our trip in January and that was still sitting on our credit card (only for a week but still).

The main reason that I feel out if control with Christmas is because I don't have a total budget.  I know about what I want to spend on people and I shop with that in mind.  If something is more and is the prefect gift, I move on to find the perfect gift in my price range.  I buy seafood for Christmas dinner and baking supplies for 2-3 Christmas goodies/cookies.  I should probably have a total budget and save for it throughout the year but I've never done it that way.

I paid the credit card today to the tune of $2300.  We saved $500 in our investment account, $200 to the car fund, $1000 to regular savings and $500 for the beef purchase later this month.  I actually have no idea how much the beef will cost, hoping less than $1000.

We finally for the bill for our property taxes, $2770 for the year with our property assessed at $240,000.  It's worth about $100,000 more than the assessed value.  I was complaining to Y about the amount and he reminded me that we used to pay $4800 annually for a house assessed at $175,000.  OK, I guess $2770 isn't bad but I don't have that amount in the escrow savings account so I will need to dip into our regular savings.

I want to get a better grip on our finances.  I don't like waiting until payday to just pay everything and call it good.  I need to know where all of our money is going.

How do you budget for Christmas?  Do you save a bit monthly?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Funny Story

On Friday at 5:10, I'm driving home eagerly because I have guests coming over in less than 2 hours.  I pass by the grocery store and remember that they're having a one day seafood sale and I had planned to get seafood for Christmas.  I swing in and plan to be quick about it.  We get in the first door and Lil Punk wants money to give to the red kettle.  I dig out a dollar.  She starts to whine about how she wants to give change.  I pull out a cart and put my purse in it.  I start to dig in my wallet for change so Lil G can give something so.  Lil G takes off running through the doors and turns for the cashier's.  I tell Punk to run after him.  She does but he is gone.  This is scary to me.  I push my cart through the doors and leave it.  I start sprinting after my kids.  As I run through the cashiers stations, I totally wipe out.  Thankfully, my kids stop to actually laugh loudly at me.  I fell hard and it hurt.  As I got up, one of the cashiers asked me if I was hurt.  I replied with a yes, grabbed my kids, and went back to retrieve my cart.  Several people were around and saw it all happen. I just marched my kids back to the seafood, grabbed what I wanted, paid and got the heck out of there.

My one knee is so bruised today.  I'm reminded that I should not run after my kids in my dress shoes.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Challenge Failed

I mentioned that I'm having friends over tomorrow.  I'm having a game night and I invited 3 families over.  I went grocery shopping today and spent $85 for a total of $142 for a 10 day period.  I bought enough fresh fruits and veggies to last us the next week so I won't have to go again until after the 15th.  I knew that I was likely going to go over but I choose to always have food and drinks for my guests.  I bought plenty of fresh veggies and made artichoke spinach dip, veggie pizza and lil smokies in BBQ sauce.

Would you have failed your own challenge or would you do what I did?  Snacks and appetizers are just not optional when we're entertaining.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Saturday Update


This is our menu for the week:
Today:  steaks, potatoes, and spinach salad
Sunday:  veggie pizza, jalapeƱo poppers and chicken bites
Monday:  spaghetti
Tuesday:  wild rice soup
Wednesday:  pork loin, quinoa, corn
Thursday:  homemade pizza
Friday:  shredded beef sandwiches--we are having friends over for a game night.  I will probably make a couple snacky appetizers also.

I'm about three fourths done Christmas shopping.  I have done most of it online but I actually need to go shopping for a couple presents.  I don't stress at all about Christmas anymore.  What gets done is great, what doesn't isn't a big deal.  I had three holiday parties this past week and I love seeing everybody.  I was reminded how much I love socializing.

We've had a wonderful day today.  We made a batch of cookies.  We went sledding behind the four-wheeler for a couple hours.  We didn't have this much snow last year so we definitely enjoyed playing in it.  I also took a nap with Lil G while Y took Lil Punk grocery shopping.  They spent a total $57 which leaves us $43 until the 15th.  We should be fine with that for our regular household spending.

Have a good week!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Little Grocery Challenge

I'm challenging myself to only spend $100 on groceries and other household items until December 15.  We need to eat down our pantry and freezer anyway.  We will be doing some Christmas baking but I have the ingredients for white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.   If I make one more kind, I will likely call it good.  We don't need 15 different kinds of Christmas goodies.

I booked our Mexico hotel today.  I got a 5 star all-inclusive hotel for $1218 for 5 days.  Since we used credit card points to book our airfare, this is our only cost thus far for our 5 day Mexico trip.  I'm so excited!!!

Anybody want to join me on a little grocery challenge?

Moving Forward into 2016

I've struggled with direction and motivation since becoming debt free besides our mortgage. I have a huge goal of saving $50,000 in 2016 outside of our work retirement plans.   I want to focus on investing in dividend stocks.  I will be posting at least monthly so you can see our progress.

The other piece of information I've been anxiously awaiting is how much our property taxes will be for this year.  The property taxes aren't due until February 1st but they always have the information out some time in December.  Our tax abatement for building a new house expires this year.  They have been around $650 previously and I'm expecting around $3000.

We have some upcoming expenses so I won't be saving any more money this year.  We are getting a half a beef and half a pig.  I have also yet to book our hotel for Playa del Carmen in January.  Plus we have Christmas on top of it all.  Very expensive!!

My FIL finally got out of the hospital after a week.  He's on some painkillers for bad headaches but he's getting better.  It's a slow process but he's moving in the right direction.  So relieved!!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Super Saturday Update

We had a nice Thanksgiving considering the circumstances.  My FIL is still in the hospital.  We're hoping he gets out today.  The doctors said that he could go home yesterday but I guess he didn't want to because he didn't know how to keep with the oral pain medication regimen.  I don't think we're being lied to but I doubt that we're getting the full story.  It's very confusing to me.  When I'm confused, I'm usually irritated because it's my nature to dig deep for the rest of the story.  That's just not possible here.

Regarding the dog they are maybe going to adopt, I love the dog.  First and most importantly, he was wonderful with my kids.  Lil G played with him the whole time in typical two year old fashion and the dog showed no signs of aggression.  I took him for a walk and he was great after I showed him a firm hand.  He walked briskly beside me and only pulled a couple times.  Apparently this is not how it is for my MIL.  He ran off on her the day before Thanksgiving and she needed the neighbor's help to retrieve him.  I guess that he is also very loud when he's excited--I was surprised that they seemed surprised at this.  Hounds are bred to be heard for miles when they are hunting.  Overall, I thought the dog was fabulous but still not a fit for for their lifestyle.  They really need a lap dog (nobody was even going to walk the dog on Thanksgiving because its okay if he misses a day of being walked--not okay with a large hound).

I did a bit of online shopping for Black Friday.  I bought a new pair of cognac colored boots from Macy's for $100 which were normally priced at $170.  I also bought quite a few Christmas presents for the kids and another family that I'm shopping for.  I thought some for the deals were good but not spectacular.  I kind of think Black Friday shopping has lost its glow with all the other deep discounts out there.

We're hoping to see my FIL later today.  I hope he gets out of the hospital and starts recuperating.  Fingers crossed!


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Health Issues

I've written before on this blog that one of the reasons that we're so focused on saving is because my father-in-law has had so many health issues and had to retire earlier than expected.  He had another bad fall this past Friday.  It didn't sound that bad until we heard that he got 8 staples in his head.  He was back in the ER yesterday with nausea and dizziness.  He was admitted to the hospital again.  They can't seem to figure anything out.  He has CT scans and MRI's with surprising regularity.

His health is getting so much worse and nobody knows what is going on.  It's very depressing to watch.  He now walks with a walker always, even in our living room.  He's fallen 5 or 6 times and falls straight back and hits his head every time.  He speaks so slowly that it's very hard to have a conversation.  He can't bend down to give my kids a hug.  Oh, and he's all of 62.  I'm hoping they are able to diagnose him correctly now.

To make matters worse, they are trying to adopt a 2 year old Plot Hound, which is a coonhound.  When I voiced my opposition to that, Y got pissed at me but I think its a very bad idea.  They need a ton of exercise and tend to bray loudly.

Who knows if he will even be out for Thanksgiving?  I need to change around my attitude about all of this but it's hard.  It's not my job to push for a medical diagnosis nor to make sure that a dog adoption doesn't happen.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Part 1 of 2

Today we funded Y's Roth IRA.  We would have did mine at the same time but I need to save some more money first.  With this contribution, we will hopefully be over $150,000 in our retirement accounts to meet our goal for the and of the year.  We will still fund mine this year if we have enough money.

I signed us up for medical flex to the tune of $2000 annually and $5000 for daycare flex.  That will save us a bit of taxes next year.  It seems like our medical costs have increased mainly due to having 4 of us now with medical, dental and vision needs.  We've been lucky in that our health insurance deductibles haven't increased.  They are still at $400 per person or $1200 for family.

Random thought of the day:  it is highly annoying to me when PF bloggers talk about throwing money at a certain account or bill.  Don't throw the money.  Make a proper decision and execute.  Give your money some thought.  Does this annoy anybody else?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

5 Years Ago

We were in a much different place 5 years ago.  We moved to our current place from the city.  We knew we wanted to live in the country and property taxes were ridiculous at our previous house.  We found our current place and we really liked the property.  It had a double wide mobile home on it.  We decided to go for it with the hope of building the house we wanted in a couple years.  It was still a huge leap for us because we didn't know if we would really be able to afford to pay off the current mortgage and have money to build.

The first day I woke up in our mobile home and went to take a shower, I cried as I realized what a huge step down it was from our previous new house.  Living in that house was a huge adjustment but we knew what we wanted.  It motivated us to save and pay down our mortgage.

Professionally, I was in a job that I hated with a boss whom I despised.  I would often leave work and cry because it was such a terrible work environment.  I was under intense pressure and they never gave me time off.  I knew that as soon as we had our mortgage on the new place that I would be looking for another job.

Lil Punk was our only child.  We hadn't even begun to think about Lil G.  Y and I were going strong but we also knew that moving away from our friends would take some getting used to.  It was a huge social adjustment not to be going out all the time.

I will also write a post about what I see for the next 5 years.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

401k Maxed Out

With my paycheck tomorrow, my 401k will be officially maxed out for the year.  It's been a little hard at times to have $18,000 withdrawn from my checks throughout the year but I don't regret it for one minute.  Going into this year, it wasn't my plan to max it out but as we got out of debt, I decided to go for it.

In the future, I do plan to continue maxing out my 401k.  I upped my contributions for next year to 17% to start with.  I will likely have to tinker with them throughout the year to try to max it out while putting at least 5% of every check to get mg employer's match.

This is definitely a goal for next year too!!!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Lazy Day with the Kiddos

Y went hunting for the long weekend so I'm just chilling with the kids for the weekend.  Lil Punk has wanted to buy the movie Home for awhile so we rented it yesterday.  We watched it on my bed as we only have the Blue Ray player in the living room.  We had fun cuddling on our bed watching the movie.  We also watched it this morning as soon as the kids woke up.  It's a very good movie.  I think I will buy it for Lil Punk.

Today the kids and I went to see Peanuts the Movie in the theater today.  I thought I was nuts for bringing them by myself.  Lil G isn't even two years old yet.  We did the popcorn and Powerade snack for the movie.  The movie was disappointing but I was impressed with how well the kids did.  Lil G sat on my lap almost the whole time and Lil Punk went down to the first row to sit with the other kids upfront.  We didn't go with friends but all the other kids around her age sat in the front row so I let her also.

We then went to the park.  I ran into my friend and her kids there.  We played for over an hour but it got chilly when the sun set.  It was around 50 when we got there so it was a very nice late fall day.  It's supposed to be even nicer tomorrow.

The Vikings play at noon tomorrow.  I'm hoping Y is home in time for the game.  I miss him.  We haven't seen him since Thursday morning.  I hope he shoots a deer tomorrow morning so we have venison.  I like venison more than he does.

I love just hanging out with my kids.  They are two little people who amaze me every day. It seems like they are getting big so quickly.  Lil G turns 2 this week.  Where has the time gone?  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

To Roth or Not

One of my goals was to have $50,000 in my retail investing accounts by the end of the year.  I'm currently at $45,000.  Another goal was to have $150,000 in retirement.  We are currently at $146,600.  My 401k is almost maxed out for the year but I will likely get market appreciation for the remainder so it is likely that our retirement accounts would reach $150,000 even if we did nothing else this year.

So, going back to my goals, I should top off my retail account to get to $50,000.  However, I think I want to instead max out Roth's for Y and myself.  We are over the income limit this year but we can backdoor it.  We won't have enough to put $11,000 in our Roth's plus another $5000 in the retail accounts.  I have another $1000 scheduled for this year for the retail account.

What would you do?  I feel like we are behind in our retirement savings.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Weekly Menu

Monday--Guinness beef stew, already in the crock pot ready to go for tomorrow
Tuesday--taco salads
Wednesday--spaghetti
Thursday--sloppy joes with veggies
Friday--leftovers

We are getting half a beef in about two months and half a pig in about six weeks so we need to eat down our freezer. I know we'll have room but I also need to cut our grocery bill in the next two months because the pork and beef will be expensive.

The other things I want to get done this week are having Y apply for his passport and making sure we're enrolled in Y's work benefits.  We need to reenroll every year for the medical and daycare flex benefits.

Have a good week!

Friday, October 30, 2015

I'm Financially Boring

Financially speaking, I have nothing going on.  I'm not paying off debt nor am I investing in interesting dividend stocks.  I've reached financial boredom.  I've seen it happen with many personal finance bloggers when they get out of debt.  I didn't think I would struggle to find my place financially because we had big plans.  We planned on saving money, both for retirement and otherwise.

Where do we go from here?  Do I start socking away all money I can with the hopes of quitting our jobs early?  That sounds attractive.  Do we live on as little as possible to prove a point?  That doesn't sound like my cup of tea unless the point is homesteading.  Do we spend willy nilly on stuff?  Probably not but I would like a new four-wheeler.  Do we focus on travelling?  Um, we have a toddler and limited time off, probably not going to really happen.
That leaves us with a ho hum attitude financially.  I have a lofty savings goal for next year so I'm hoping that will energize us.

Anybody else struggling with this?  What did you do?

Side note:  I'm extremely grateful to be in this position.  It has taken loads of hard work and good health to get here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Funday

It's been a super busy day today.  Lil Punk and I made pumpkin spice muffins this morning and brought then to a couple if our neighbors.  One neighbor was the one who had twins about a month ago.  I held one little baby and wished I was having another one.  They were so precious when we were there.  The other neighbor that we gave muffins to was the one who gave us more pumpkins.  She was very grateful and raved about them.  It was nice to do something for somebody who always goes out of her way to be kind and giving to everyone.

We also cleaned out our pumpkins in preparation for carving them.  I saved the seeds to roast and Y said he would take care of that.  We love roasted pumpkin seeds.

I'm now at Lil Punk's figure skating practice and she's almost done.  It's only the second practice this year and I can already tell an improvement.  Gotta go!  Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Challenge Update

I finished the $21 challenge last week.  I bought milk and bananas.  I don't have an exact but it was pretty close to the $21.  It wasn't that bad for one week.  I do keep a well stocked freezer and pantry so it forced me to make more meals from scratch which is always a good thing.  Plus, I don't think my kids even noticed.  My husband only noticed because I told him what we were doing.  Overall, it was pretty painless.  I actually think that I'm going to incorporate this challenge monthly.  I did go grocery shopping lar Friday for this week.  I spent about $100 so nothing out of the ordinary for this week.

I did get a new credit card.  I opened the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  I will get 40,000 bonus points after spending $3000 in the first 3 months.  I'm hoping to use those points to book our hotel in Playa del Carmen.  I booked our flight a couple weeks back using my current credit card miles.  Y and I have never been to Mexico so we're super stoked.  If I could pull off using the credit card bonus points for the hotel, that would be awesome.  That would be the second year in a row that we had a vacation paid for exclusively with credit card bonuses.  Since we've never paid interest on a credit card, we're way ahead of the game.

Our spending is way down this month, largely due to the grocery challenge and staying home on the weekends.  Now we just need to keep this up for the rest of the month :)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Challenge Update--The Shopping

I knew I needed to pick up a few items.  I stopped Friday after work and this is what I bought.

Sour cream 1.68
2 avocados .70
5 pounds of green grapes 5.03
Lays potato chips 2.50
Honeydew 1.50
Bananas 1.28
2 liter of generic soda .84
Cheddar cheese 2.47

Total of 16.06 for a remaining balance of 4.94

I needed the chips and sour cream for the dip and chips to bring to my friend's party.  The soda is a weakness of mine.  I lucked out on getting the grapes for $1 a pound.  I need to buy milk tomorrow as we will only have enough for breakfast.

Friday evening we had the crock pot chili I had made the day before.  I made pancakes from scratch on Saturday morning.  For lunch, the kids had tomato soup and fruit.  I had a salad.  I made vegetable beef soup from scratch on Saturday before we went to the party.  I knew there would be food but I also knew it would be a long time.  Thank goodness as we didn't eat until around 7:30 so we just had a snack at that point.  We had a light breakfast of fruit this morning and an early lunch of boiled eggs and pasta salad with peas and tomatoes.  We had nachos during the game and I made a pizza roll from scratch for dinner.

The one constant is that most meals are made from scratch.  I usually cook that way but I also plan for hectic nights with easier meals.

I will go over tomorrow with buying the fruit for my work breakfast but I'm okay with that.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Challenge Update

So far, we've spent nothing for groceries this week (my weeks run from when we get paid so it started yesterday).  Yesterday, we had leftovers and canned peaches for dinner.  Tonight we had a hodge podge for dinner, Mac n cheese and rice with veggies.  I made chili tonight that will go in the crock pot for tomorrow's dinner.  I don't think I've ever blogged about this but my secret to making crock pot meals during the week is a plugin timer.  If I start the crock pot right away in the morning, it is too long for most meals.  I plug it into the timer and set the timer to start around noon or whatever time I like.  This has greatly increased my use of the crock pot during the week.

For my neighbor and friend who just had the twins, I'm going to make a cheesy hamburger potato casserole. I have everything for it already and I think it will be easy for them to reheat at their convenience.  For my friend's birthday, I'm going to make bacon Bacon dip which I will need sour cream for and maybe chocolate chip bars which I think I have everything for.  I've made the dip before and she raved about it so it's fitting that I would bring it to her party.

I will need to buy fruit and milk this weekend.  That will pretty much exhaust the $21.

I did decide that its highly unlikely that I will be able to succeed at this challenge and include the money for the fruit for my work event.  I'm okay with that.  I'm obligated to participate in that because of my role at work and I do make a good income that comes with certain obligations.

I also talked to my very good friend in real life and she said she is going to do the same thing.  Like us, they do well but she is always looking for ways to save money.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

$21 Grocery Challenge

I read about a $21 Grocery Challenge for a week at Finally Acting Our Wage.  I am usually up for a challenge so I'm starting today.  I just read about this yesterday I haven't been to the store since then so I have not stocked up in any way.  I am doing it today through next Tuesday.

I do have a few events this coming week that will make this interesting.  My neighbor just had twins so I'm going to bring them over a homecooked meal.  It's my other neighbor's 50th birthday on Saturday so I'm going to bring over an appetizer or two.  To top it off, I'm supposed to bring a fruit dish to work next Tuesday for a breakfast appreciation.

This will certainly be a challenge.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Living Off the Land

This coming weekend we are going to visit my best friend and her family to make salsa and hang out.  I so look forward to it as she is just an awesome person and so much nicer than me.  She is an addiction counselor and believes in the best in everybody.  I will also see her parents, her two sisters and their families.

They all are the most self-sufficient people I've ever met.  They raise pigs for pork.  They have cattle for beef and a milk cow for fresh milk.  With the fresh milk, her mom makes her own cheese, yogurt and butter   They have sheep for mutton.  They have chickens for butcher and for fresh eggs.  They hunt deer for venison.  They have a large garden and can everything in it.  They also have apple trees, raspberry bushes and a strawberry patch.  They pick wild blueberries and chokecherries.

They have a separate cabin with a well pump and wood stove that they could use at any time in an emergency.

I seriously want to be like this.  Unfortunately for me, I don't think I could do all this and have a full time job or little kids.  I love the idea but I couldn't prioritize the time and energy to do this.  Maybe when I retire....  Lol!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Relaxing Sunday

I made wild plum jelly today for the first time.  We've had wild plums for a long time in our yard but I've never done anything with them before.  Lil G has taken to eating them whenever he can so it motivated me to try something with them.  I boiled and strained them last weekend.  I made the jelly today and canned it this evening.  The jelly tasted really good but I'm hoping it gets thicker as it cools.  I followed the recipe precisely so I'm hoping.  I made 5 pints so we should have enough to give away a couple as Christmas gifts.

Next weekend, we're travelling the 2 1/2 hours to my best friend's house for our salsa weekend.  I have the tomatoes peeled and frozen.  I also have plenty of hot peppers.  It will be a fun and busy weekend.  We are also going to her neighbor's wedding when we're there whom we've never met.  It's a little random but it is so like my best friend to accept a wedding invitation with the premise that her out of town guests would attend also.  She makes friends with everybody.

Both Y and I were paid this past week.  I was contributing 16% of my income to my 401k but after this last check, I dropped it to 5%.  That will allow me to still get the company match and I will still max it out this year.  I have about $1600 left to contribute to my 401k to max it out.  I also maxed out my Social Security match so that will be a 6.2% increase for the rest of the year.

I took another look at our goals for the year and I need to stay focused.  I will do another post about where we're at and what we need to work on.  I will say that if we did not have financial goals every year, we would be further behind financially from where we are.

Have a wonderful week!


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Menu Plan

I have felt lately that we've been so busy that I haven't been cooking full meals for the most part.  I guess we're still getting back into the rhythm of school and kids' activities.

Monday--BLT's with cabbage salad
Tuesday--pork roast with potatoes in the crock pot and corn on the side.  Lil Punk has gymnastics so we're always scrambling on Tuesdays.
Wednesday--shrimp and veggie stir fry with rice
Thursday--taco salads
Friday--chicken and veggie quesadillas

I do need to pick up milk, fresh fruit and cat food.  I've noticed that we've been going to the store more often which always costs us way more money.  We need to get back to going weekly at the most.

I'm feeling tired and lethargic today because we went to a wedding yesterday.  We were there with our good friends that we don't see that often anymore.  We've moved away and we all have kids so we are definitely not partying anymore like we used to.  It was super fun to party like a rockstar but I'm feeling it today.

I wrapped up some huge things professionally last week so it feels like a load has been lifted from my shoulders.  I love the challenge of my work but I will take easier weeks when they come my way.

Have a good week, Y'all!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Goal Completed

I completed a goal today.  I ran a 5k.  I wanted to stop and walk but I kept on jogging till the end.  I had about half a mile left and it was very hilly.  I was passed by a senior citizen, he must have been at least 70.  I figured if he was still running then I could push myself.  My goal was to run an entire 5k and I'm happy to be done.  I finished in 31.4 minutes.

In other not so good news, Lil G put my phone in the sink and turned the water on.  He was quite thrilled with himself and I'm just happy that my phone still works.  It now has water spots on the screen that I'm hoping go away with time.

Monday, August 31, 2015

It's My Birthday!!

36 today which is a little scary since it's closer to 40 than 30 but it's better than the alternative of not having another birthday.  I have lunch planned with my husband and a quiet dinner with my kids.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Picking Investments

Another blogger, Leslie, asked me how I picked my stocks and researched them.  I will give a back story about how I started investing a different time but I will try to explain how I pick investments now.

I actually have two retail investment accounts.  The first account is with Sharebuilder that I've had for over 9 years.  The balance took a dive today and is just under $8000.  I only have individual stocks in this one.  I have Titan Machinery which has done horribly.  I bought this just as I was getting back into investing and didn't do any research on it.  Commodity prices tanked a couple years ago and farmers aren't buying new farm equipment.  I also own Halliburton, BP and Conoco, all of which were bought around the first of the year when oil first tanked.  I'm down about $1500 now between the three stocks.  I didn't really research them but just bought when oil tanked.  The other stock I own is Coach.  I just bought this in the past month.  Again, I didn't research it much but I do think it's solid stock.  This account was down a total of $1700 today.

The other account I have is with a brokerage firm with an investment advisor.  I have $27,000 in this account and heavily rely on my advisor's advice.  I have a relationship with the advisor, not the firm.  I would follow him to a different firm if he left.  I know him personally and he isn't shy about telling me what to do.  I think he has my best interests in mind when he tells me what to do.  I have three mutual funds.  Two were the first ones that he recommended.  They are income producing funds and not very risky.  The other one is the one that is getting all of my money lately, it's an energy fund that I talked to my advisor about when oil started really heading south about a month ago.  It's less risky than buying individual stocks but still in the energy sector.  I knew I wanted something in the energy sector and he steered me in this direction.

Overall, I'm a terrible researcher but I've always made money on stocks.  I've sold Playboy, Halliburton, GE, Bank of America, ING, and Caterpillar for a profit.  I lost on GM.  I have a bit of a reckless personality which is why I want to buy when everybody else is selling.  However, that reckless part of my personality is what makes me a bad investor which is why I need a trusted advisor.  The traditional personal finance investing advice is to buy Vanguard mutual funds and hold.  I'm not that patient and I'm not enthused to do that.  This is what works for me and I hope it's profitable.

What do you think?  Do you think I'm crazy?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Back To School

Lil Punk goes back to school this week on Wednesday.  We had first grade orientation last week and her teacher seemed so nice.  She was very kind and enthusiastic.  I think she will be a great teacher and make the effort to bond with Lil Punk.

Lil Punk and I went to the fair today to use up a couple ride tickets from yesterday when we were rained out.  We went on the Tilt O Whirl and another big kid ride.  It was so much fun and I'm happy that she's almost done with the kiddie rides.  She wanted to go on the Zipper but I thought that be a bit much for a 6 year old.  Next year I definitely want to take her on armband night.  I love rides and it was such a big step for her today.

This week will likely feel out of sorts as we adjust to back to school.  I can't believe how quickly the summer flew by.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Duggars

I made a comment awhile back about the Duggars that I thought it was not a bad thing that they kept popping out kids.  I now fully retract that statement.  They obviously have too many kids to care for all of them.

When it came to light 3 months ago that Josh had molested his sisters and one other girl.  His parents gave an interview that defended their actions of not reporting him sooner and basically dismissed their daughters' feelings on the subject.  They acted like the situation wasn't a huge deal until he started touching their very young daughter.  As a survivor of incestuous abuse, I was absolutely disgusted by their attitude on the whole situation.  I couldn't believe that they didn't do more to protect their daughters.  They were more interested in protecting Josh's name now.

It was revealed this week from hackers that Josh had two paid subscriptions to Ashley Madison, the website for cheaters.  He even paid extra to guarantee himself an affair.  He is obviously a pig and a cheater.  The worst part about this is that his poor wife, Anna, just had their fourth baby.  To my knowledge, Anna has never worked during their marriage.  She helped out a bit at their car lot but Josh made all the decisions.  Anna has no means to support herself and its likely that her family and Josh's will urge her to forgive him and stay with him.  I'm sure she will look at this as one big test from God, not the sign to run far away like it should be.  Anna has no financial options to leave Josh except for going after him for child support. I feel so sorry for Anna.  Nobody deserves the shit that she is going through.

The whole situation is terrible.  Their culture really sets woman back 100 years or more.  What are your thoughts on the Duggar situation?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Enthusiasm

For the better part of this year I have lacked enthusiasm for saving.  I was excited to pay off our remaining auto debt and to bring our liquid emergency fund up to $10,000.  We have still been saving money but not with much enthusiasm.  Until now!  Nothing motivates me more than a down market to be motivated to put every extra penny into savings.  I love getting things I really want on sale and stocks are no exception.

I think energy stocks are very undervalued right now so I want to dump any and all extra money into them.  I'm tempted to not buy any groceries except milk for the next two weeks so I can use all the grocery money to invest.  I do think its feasible that money invested now could double or more in the next few years.  I know its a gamble but I'm willing to take it.

I'm debating depleting our cash emergency fund to invest it all.  If Y was on board with that plan, I would do it.  We have about $10,000 liquid but I would even feel comfortable taking that down to around $2-3000.

Buying stocks on sale is for me is like most women buying shoes and purses on sale!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Retirement Update

I just added up our retirement totals for August 1st and we're within $5000 of our $150,000 goal this year.  We started with $116,599.75 at the beginning of the year and we've contributed quite a bit this year.  I have one more month of adding 16% of my income to my 401k before I need to back it down to the 5% to just get the company match.  I want to max out my 401k but I want the match so its a balancing game, especially because I'm on commission.

I've mentioned it before but the reason that I'm focusing so much on retirement is because I don't know what the future holds.  What if I'm disabled tomorrow and never able to work again?  Also, my in-laws just retired and I worry for them. I hope they have enough money to last.  My mother-in-law retired just before she turned 59 so that is young to retire.

If all goes according to plan (which I know rarely happens), I do want to be able to retire and travel without worrying about money at every twist and turn.  I want to have less stress in retirement, not worry about money.  I will probably be worried about our health and kids at that point.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Country Living

I spent the morning picking from my garden.  I picked tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers and mini eggplant.  I washed up the tomatoes and peppers because I'm going to trade them with a friend for sweet corn.  He grows a huge field of it and I'm going to pick enough to freeze.  I'm going to blanch it and freeze some but I'm also going to try to make cream corn and freeze it like that.

I made a pasta salad with veggies from my garden, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and celery.  I'm bringing it over to our neighbor's house tonight for a pig roast.  It will be fun but super hot.  It's around 95 here today and very humid.  They don't have central air so you can't even go inside to cool off.  I don't know how people did it in the south before AC.  It will be fun to hang out with everybody and have a couple drinks.

Have a wonderful Saturday!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thursday Update

I'm not sure how many ways I can title my random updates which have become my entire blog.

Tomorrow is payday for Y and myself and a commission one for me.  I was able to log in today to see how much my check would be.  It's actually $600 more than what I was thinking it would be.  I deducted all of the savings and other small bills from my checkbook register.  Since this was a large commission check, I do plan on investing more money tomorrow but I'm not sure in the amount.

I did pay my one debt, the mortgage.  One commenter pointed out that I'm not debt free since I have a mortgage and she's correct.  My actual mortgage amount is $937 monthly and I choose to pay that rather than pay rent elsewhere.  1800 square feet new houses are not rented out in my town but if they were, the rent would be around $1500-1800 monthly.  I'm much farther ahead to have a manageable mortgage for our house.

The energy sale is continuing.  I'm buying energy stocks for the long haul.  I think they're undervalued but OPEC is going to push the price down as much as they can.  I think we will see low oil prices for a couple more years.  It looks like a couple big countries are on the verge of recessions.  Energy and steel stocks look like great buys right now.

I have been getting headaches consistently lately.  I made a chiropractic appointment so I hope that helps.  The other thing it could be is my long hair.  My hair is down to the middle of my back.  I don't have time to dry it in the morning anymore so its super healthy even with curling it.  I am loathe to cut it but of I must to get rid of my headaches, then it must be done.

That's is for today's random update :)


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Food and Stocks

I prepared dinner for tomorrow with ingredients from our garden.  Freshly dug potatoes, onions, and carrots were chopped and put in the crockpot with chicken thighs and garlic.  I will put the timer on the crockpot tomorrow and we will have a delicious dinner tomorrow night.  Our tomatoes are starting and I'm so thankful.  Tomatoes and cucumbers are my favorite foods.  I splash a little garlic rice wine vinegar in both and it makes for a good side dish or snack.

I met with my financial advisor and started buying an energy mutual fund.  I think energy stocks are undervalued right now and I love getting a good deal.  I wasn't sure if I wanted more exposure to individual energy stocks since I already own BP, Conoco, and Halliburton.  I also bought a couple thousand of Coach.  I don't buy their bags because I'm too frugal but I think I got a good deal on the stock.  I wish I had more cash right now because I love buying stocks on sale.  I am keeping my $10,000 emergency fund in cash but I'm so tempted to buy something else.

Another side note that's important to me:  I encourage you to call your Senators who voted not to defund Planned Parenthood.  This is not about women's rights.  Women should always have the right to say no.  It's not okay to use our tax dollars for an organization that is selling fetus body parts.

If you think that you're going to leave me a comment in my blog about changing my mind.  Forget it.  Never going to happen.

Edited to add:  I like that this is a passionate issue.  It should be.  Obviously I feel strongly about it and I think we should contact our elected officials to remind them how we want them to vote.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Birthday and Garden Update

Tomorrow is Lil Punk's 6th birthday.  She's getting to be such a big girl.  We had a pool party on Saturday and she had 4 little girls attend.  It was fun and all the girls were very well-behaved.  We got her a cheaper tablet but we won't give it to her till tomorrow. I know she will love it.  We went to the lake today for an hour.  We even planned a girls daytrip before school starts.  We're going to play mini golf, do school shopping and have lunch.  It will be super fun but it also reminds me how big she's gotten.  These last 6 years have flown by.

My garden is doing lovely.  Peas are pretty much over now and the kohlrabi is finished but other things are doing great.  We just picked a couple cherry tomatoes this week.  The peppers are doing wonderfully.  We've also had a great year for carrots.




These are mini eggplants from my garden.  I made a veggie stir fry today with these, green pepper, onions and broccoli from the garden over couscous.  It was delicious.  I splashed it with garlic rice wine vinegar when it was cooking and it gave it the extra flavor it needed without the added fat from a stir fry sauce.
These are baby fingerling potatoes.  I didn't mean to dig these but I pulled up a weed and they can with it.  I'm debating pulling up another plant and making a tasty dish for the whole family.  Or I could just cook them for myself :)


Have a good week!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mortgage Plan

We currently have a 30 year fixed mortgage owing just under $199,000 at 3.375%.  We are 3 years into our mortgage.  Y and I were talking the other day about retirement and we want our mortgage paid in full prior to retirement.  He is eligible for his full pension when he is 59 or 21 years away.  I decided to run an amortization table with the intent to pay it off in 21 years.  It came out to just under $1110 monthly so I'm starting to pay that amount starting in July versus the $1000 monthly that I had been paying.

I'm happy with this decision but I still struggle a bit with it.  I know I could probably achieve better than a 3.375% return but we are saving aggressively. For the most part, I do disagree with putting all extra money toward a mortgage because of the math behind it.  But I do not want a mortgage in retirement so I'm going ahead with it.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Update

It's almost 9 am here and the rest of the house is sleeping.  Granted everybody was up late last night as we had a BBQ last night.  We had 10 people over last night for a neighborhood BBQ and it was so much fun.

It seems like I don't have too much to say in the financial front anymore.  We are debt free and intend to remain that way.  We are investing money, to the tune if $2000 this month.  We are saving for upcoming expenses.  Anyway, its not all that exciting to read about so I decided that I'm just going to post about whatever.  If you only want to read about my finances, you are going to be bored going forward.

We planted sunflowers on a whim in out garden and we love them.  The little hand is my daughter's.  This is the first one that bloomed.  We want to harvest the seeds but I need to research how to protect them from the birds.  These look beautiful on the edge of the garden.

  This pic is from the middle of my garden.  It's right next to our old barn.  Y would like to tear this down but I love the way it looks.

Maybe I will post more pics this weekend.  Have a good week!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Frugal Weekend

I don't think I wrote about it on my blog but Y had some health issues in May.  I think everything got cleared up but we were left with some medical bills, to the tune of $562.  We have almost exhausted our medical flex.  We only have $260 left in that so I will request reimbursement but still have the other portion.  Rather than pulling the money from savings or my commission check, I plan to cash flow it.

I bought just the necessary groceries yesterday.  Milk, bananas, watermelon, pickles and tortillas were purchased for $17.  Our garden is starting to produce veggies and our raspberry patch is doing beautifully.
I never add pictures so I hope this works.  These raspberries were planted this year that we got from a friend and they are going gangbusters.  We eat raspberries everyday.

Lil Punk says she has strep throat so I guess we are off to the clinic.  Fun stuff!!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Mid Year Financial Check Up

The other day Y and I had our mid year financial chat.  I don't have our list of financial goals right now so I'm going to summarize.

  • We are happy that we are debt free other than our mortgage a d plan to stay that way.
  • Savings accounts are over $10,000 and we want to have at least 10k for emergencies
  • One of our goals was to have $50,000 in our retail investment accounts.  We currently gave $22,000 approximately so we are going to focus on this one next.
  • A goal that wasn't on our list for 2015 that we are doing is maxing our my 401k and we plan to continue to do this.
  • We decided we need to have a game plan for when one of us needs a new car.  We're going to do an automatic transfer into a savings account for $200.  This won't get us completely where we need to be but it will be a start.  
  • We are happy with the way our other goals are coming along.
  • That was the extent of our conversation.  Short and sweet with 2 action plans:  car fund and retail investment account.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Alarming Comment

Lil Punk turns 6 later this month.  She commented to me today, "I wish I could be skinny like T and E at daycare."  My heart broke.  She is not overweight.  She is a solid little girl, very much like I was at that age, but not heavy.

Wtf?  Really?  At 5?  This is so sad to me.

I talked to her about how she is beautiful and perfect the way she is.  I told her that I was her size when I was little and I've grown up not to be heavy.

I don't think she's getting this from me but maybe?  I try to have my kids eat healthy snacks, lots of fruit and fresh veggies but I don't comment that we're eating like this because we are overweight. I made a conscious decision to change our snacking about 3-4 years ago and its become part of our daily life now.  Fruit snacks and other candy are a treat, not the norm.

I know little girls grow up quickly these days but its still sad for me.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Garden Bounty

Tonight I made a delicious salad with kohlrabi, green onions, and celery from our garden with a light dressing of rice wine vinegar with salt and pepper.  Even Lil Punk commented on how much she liked it.  She and I have also been munching on peas every chance we get.

Out neighbors surprised us by bringing by a couple bushels of fresh strawberries.  Yum!!  My kids ate so many and I finished them off today in scrumptious strawberry muffins.  Everybody raved about the muffins so that recipe is definitely a keeper.

Everything is coming along so well.  My tomatoes are even getting close.  I might even try to figure out how to post pics.  Lol.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hungover Today

Maybe if I write a post without much content, I will actually write one.  I had a work related golf tournament yesterday.  Despite being done drinking at 5:30 yesterday and chugging down about 10 huge waters, I'm still hungover today.  It was a super cheap and fun day.  I spent about $10 on a charity raffle.  The golf, drinks, cart and dinner were all provided by either my company or professional business associates.  There are perks to being in sales.

I even golfed well yesterday.  We were under par for the course.  Now if only my head felt better today...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Best Dinner Ever

I got home from work late tonight after taking Lil G to an appointment and hitting up the local grocery store for a produce sale.  I was super tired and didn't feel like cooking.  I make the decision to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I make three, don't cut them, put them in a plate.  I washed grapes and put them in a bowl and get drinks.  I tell the kids that we're having a picnic outside by the deck Y is building.  The kids are super excited.  They dive into the sandwiches and grapes.  Lil Punk tells me that this is the best dinner ever.  Lol!  And no clean up because they all ate outside.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Casting Stones

I have a confession to make.  I've never really struggled with my weight.  I currently weigh about 133 and I would like it to be closer to 130 but I can still rock skinny jeans and tight shirts.  I am between sizes 4 and 6.  With the exception of being pregnant and post-partum, I've never been over 140.  I love food but keeping small seems to be in my genes and naturally good eating habits.  So...do I get to cast stones at all y'all bigger people out there?  Do I have that right since I do exercise and am not overweight?

Breastfeeding was the easiest for me.  I never experienced engorgement and both my kids latched perfectly from day 1.  Everyone has seen the studies at this point that breastfeeding is best and I did it for a year with both my kids.  Therefore it should be perfectly acceptable for me to look at other moms with disdain if I see them feeding their kid a bottle.  Their kid probably won't even graduate high school without momma's milk that first year.  I don't care if they can't lactate or their baby can't latch on.

What about debt?  At what point do I get to tell other people what they're doing is wrong and I know better?  When I'm debt free?  When I have 1 million in retirement?  When I make six figures?  Does it count if my spouse makes six figures but not me?  When I  own a house?  Just asking...

The blogosphere seems judgy lately so I just wanted to clarify a couple things here.  At what point am I perfect enough to cast stones?

In my opinion, when you come from as fucked up a world as I have, you not only have the right never to cast stones but only to look for the hand extended giving you a lift rather than a stone in the face.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Garden Update

My garden is coming along nicely.  We planted onions, potatoes, tomatoes, ground cherries, sweet and hot peppers, carrots, spinach, kohlrabi, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, and peas.  I might have missed a few things.  We had a couple late frosts so I was worried that the tomatoes and peppers might not make it.  They are all still doing well and I put the first tomato cage up today.

I just planted the vine garden and corn on Memorial weekend.  So far everything looks like its coming up well.  I'm excited to have so many different kinds of pumpkins and cucumbers.  We could eat cucumbers every day.  I put them in pasta salads, tomato and cucumber salad, on sandwiches, fresh with a bit of garlic rice vinegar, right out of the garden, you name it.

Y built me raised beds for raspberries, strawberries and asparagus this year.  They are all doing well so far.  I will have a 4th bed next year for herbs but that one didn't get built this year.

Y is also in the process of building our front covered deck.  The decking took 6 weeks to get here but is finally here.  I look forward to sitting out on our covered porch and I think that it will give our house extra curb appeal.  Y is also looking for a sprayer so we can spray our entire yard for bugs and mosquitoes.  We also planted black currants around the house.

One of my goals for this year was to plant two trees or perennial plants and we accomplished that between the black currants, asparagus, strawberries and raspberries.  I actually had a few asparagus planted before and one raspberry bush but neither were doing that well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Retirement by the Years

I came across a blog that had their retirement numbers year by year and I thought it was really neat.  The numbers given are as of January 1st of that year. Here goes:

2008:  2,379.18
2009: 3,474.48
2010: 7,327.33
2011:  13,153.44
2012:  29,480.27. This is marked both of ours so up till this point it was just mine.
2013:  52,934.11
2014:  80,141.07
2015:  116,599.75
Current:  128,675.82

My goal for this year is to contribute $18,000 to my 401k.  I increased my contributions to 16% of my pay.  I wish I could say that I didn't notice the increase but I do.  2011 was the year that I started my current job with a 401k.  I didn't have one before and only contributed to my Roth IRA.  I think that having the automatic contributions really increased the amount we were saving.  We both also have pensions but those numbers are not included in these.

It can seem daunting to save for such a huge goal like retirement so I like to see the progression.  If you have your numbers and don't mind sharing, leave a comment with a link back to your blog.

Monday, May 25, 2015

We have done so much better with groceries this month.  We've spent $360 so far but we will need to pick up a couple items for camping next weekend.  I've made a conscious effort to eat down our pantry, fridge and freezer.  Our fridge now only has the basics plus the freash veggies I bought yesterday.  Our pantry is getting a little skinny but still has a lot of food in it.  Our freezer is actually still pretty well stocked.  We will continue this challenge for June.

This is our menu for this week:
Beanless chili with cornbread muffins
Pork chops with cabbage salad
Spaghetti
Sesame steak strips with broccoli and rice
Burgers for camping--still need to plan with our friend that we're camping with

Oh yeah, one other important item, we finally broke down and bought the living room furniture we wanted.  Couch, loveseat, chair and two Ottomans for $5070.  Yikes!  It will be delivered this week just in time for our 11th anniversary.  Not very frugal but we are super excited.

Have a relaxing Memorial Day!!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Update

We have been completely swamped lately.  Last week was the last week for Lil Punk's spring activities.  She had her school program, gymnastics finale and last swimming class last week.  That frees up 2 evenings during the week.  This coming Thursday is her last day at school.  She has a couple weeks off before starting soccer and T-ball with the summer rec program.  Thankfully her daycare will take her to both of those activities so I can just sneak away from work occasionally to watch her.  That reminds me that daycare costs are going up for the summer with both kids full-time.  It will be $1060 a month.  It would be more but Lil G is now 18 months so the cost goes down for him.

We've been using up what is in our pantry, fridge and freezer.  I need to tally up our exact spending for the month so far.  This is what I have planned for the next week:
Veggie pot pie with rice and broccoli--new recipe that I'm winging
Steaks with mashed potatoes and veg
Asian sesame chicken with stir fry veggies
Spaghetti
BLT's with salad

I also want to make BlackBerry crumble bars today because the blackberries are kind of sour.  I also plan to make a roast, potatoes and veggies for a friend who just had a baby this week.  She's not much of a cook but it will be nice for her to have a good home cooked meal for her and her family.

My garden is about two thirds planted.  I haven't planted corn, beans or any vine plants yet.  It has been raining like crazy for the last 10 days after having an extremely dry spring.  This is making it hard to get the garden in.  We also had frost this last week so we covered the tomato and pepper plants.  Gotta love zone 4 gardening.

Everybody is up from napping now so I gotta go!

Friday, May 8, 2015

We're Debt Free!!!

**except for our mortgage

One of my goals this year was to pay off the pick-up.  I had been paying it down quite rapidly but still owed $4488.  I was sick of having that payment and I set up an automatic transfer this month to our retail investment account.  I logged in this morning and paid it off.

This is the first time since we've been married that we've not had any vehicle or student loan debt.  I'm not really counting the one day last summer that we paid off my car and bought the pick-up the same day.

Woohoo!!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Personal May Challenge

After adding up what we spent for groceries in April, we were stunned to realize that we spent $782.  Yikes!  Our freezer is stuffed full of food.  Our challenge for this month is to eat down our freezer and pantry.  I will plan meals around what we already have.  For grocery shopping, I will focus on replenishing what we always eat down, fruit, fresh veggies, milk, cheese, bread, soda (yes, I know!) and snacks like raisins that seem to disappear quickly.

We will do a better job this month!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring Gardening

Y and I have been busy this spring with both planting and making improvements.  Y put up a metal cage around my two apple trees.  They were a gift 2 years ago for Mother's Day and the deer love them.  The Sweet 16 apple tree is budding out nicely but the Honeycrisp has not done anything yet.  I hope it comes back.  Our mulberry trees are still little but look to be coming back.  I only have three mulberry trees left because the deer ate one last summer.  We had hardly any snow this past winter so the trees and shrubs didn't get the snow cover they needed.

Y built me two raised beds.  One is for raspberries and we got 18 plants from our friend's dad who wanted to be done with them.  I also ordered another 12 plants.  The other bed is for asparagus.  We put it right over my existing asparagus bed which had 4 plants last year.  We planted another 32 roots.  Asparagus is a hard plant to establish but we love it so we struggle along.  We have our fingers crossed that many of the roots take.  I planted 16 roots a couple years ago to get the 4 plants to take.  After its established, it is super easy to maintain.

Y is also going to build me two smaller beds for strawberries and herbs.  I ordered 50 strawberry plants so we need to get moving on that bed.

I planted garlic last fall and its coming up nicely.  We also planted lots of onions, potatoes, peas, radishes, carrots, beets, spinach and arugula.  The soil isn't warm enough to plant the other things we have planned:  corn, beans, tomatoes, ground cherries, cabbage, eggplant and the vines.  I will probably keep adding to my list.  I have 5 different types of pumpkins and at least 6 types of cucumbers.

What am I forgetting?  Anybody have any good veggies to grow for a northern climate that I'm forgetting?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday Cooking

I feel like we've been so busy during the week lately that we have not been eating as well as we could be.  We have been eating easier meals with more precooked components.  The key to eating better during the week for us is making more meals on the weekend or having a meal ready to throw in the crockpot.

Last night I made stuffed shells with ricotta and beef.  I made corn chili for lunch.  I am defrosting T-bones streaks for tonight and I will make an asparagus pasta salad to go with it.  I have a whole chicken thawing for tomorrow.  I will make a delicious lemon and butter chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies.  I need to plan for another crockpot meal this week and we should be set between leftovers and meals made with the leftover chicken.

I feel so much better when we eat meals made from scratch.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Payday Happenings

It was payday for Y and myself today.  I paid another $1000 to the pick-up loan bringing the balance down to $5000.  I also transferred money into our savings account bringing it to $14,500.  I have thought about paying off the pick-up but I'm holding off for a few things.  We are building our front covered deck.  I have $2000 in gift cards for Lowe's for the decking.  The gift cards are from my bonuses for 2014 and 2013.  I don't know how much more the deck will cost and I don't want to cut ourselves short.  We are also still debating buying the living room furniture that I talked about a few months back.

I also set up an automatic transfer for $500 starting next month into our retail investment account.  Speaking of investments, the energy stocks I bought in December are up over $1000.  Woohoo!  My goal was to have $50,000 in retail investments by the end of the year.  We have just over $21,000 right now so there is a long ways to go.  Since I've been putting a lot of our funds into our savings and the vehicle loan, I need to focus on the investments next.

Paydays are the best!  I wish we weren't paid on the same day.  Lol

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Sober Tale

My best friend is an incredible person.  We met in 4-H when I was 12 and she was 11.  We bonded instantly.  We both showed horses, lived on farms, were interested in boys and liked having fun.  But we really liked having fun!  More than our other girlfriends and most of our boyfriends.  We realized in our mid teens that we could easily get whatever alcohol we wanted.  We partied and drank and had good times.  Then, we needed more.  That progressed to doing drugs to keep the partying going.

We grew up.  She joined the army and I moved away and went to college eventually.  When we got together, the partying was a whole new level.  We drank Coronas for breakfast, had Redbull/vodkas all afternoon, had wine with dinner and headed to the bar where we took shots, I drank beer and she drank vodka.  We woke up drunk and drank away our hangovers.  We had so much fun.

Until we didn't.  She continued drinking and I drank less because I was in college.  She would call me and be hysterically crying.  She quickly spiralled out of control.  To make a long story short, she sobered up...for the first time.  I tried to support her because I loved her.  I didn't want her to hurt the way she was at the end of her drinking.

Sobering up our friendship was very hard.  She relapsed with my help.  I would buy her shots and slip them to her.  We had to completely redefine our friendship if we wanted ton remain friends.  I needed to support her 100% in her sobriety 100% of the time.  It was kind of awkward and very hard.

Today she is sober and an addiction counselor.  Sobriety is and always will be a topic of our friendship.  We recognize that it is there and always needs to be there.  We are having our annual girls weekend in Minneapolis this weekend.  We might go out or we might stay in.  Either way, I'm so grateful I have put in 100% to our friendship because I get 100% back.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Increased Retirement Contributions

I want to max our my 401k this year.  I was contributing 13% and I just increased it to 16%.  I'm having a better than expected year so far.  Compared to last year at this time, I've doubled my income.  I need to watch this carefully but I want to put $18,000 in my 401k this year.  I also get a 5% match from my company but I must be contributing at least 5% to get that so I can't max it out early.  It won't hurt to bump down my contributions to 5% later if I'm close to the limit.

I don't want to work forever and I'm thankful that I can do this now because my circumstances might change later.  You just never know.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Changing My Attitude

I had a mini epiphany last Friday at work.  I was super busy and received a phone call from another coworker.  I was so crabby that I snapped at him over the phone.  I do pride myself on being professional at work so this was especially embarrassing and a wake up call.  This past month I've felt like nothing was going my way at work.  I was having support issues and a host of other work related problems.  This had even contributed to insomnia.

After losing it on Friday, I did email a quick apology and decided I needed to change my entire attitude.  My job doesn't suck.  I like it.  I probably need to handle the stress better but if I put my best attitude forward, only good things can happen because of it.  That's not to say that I won't still have the typical work issues of being in a high stress work environment but I don't have to let that ruin my attitude.

I will have a better attitude moving forward!!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday

Happy Good Friday!  I'm at work today and expect a very busy day.  The kids are withh my Mother-in-law per Lil Punk's request.  Y and I will go get them after work but we are going to go out for dinner first.  I'm excited to have a date night.  We had lunch together this week and I realized how much I miss spending one on one time with him.

Have a wonderful Good Friday!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sales Support

Today was a very busy day but a happy day.  My direct sales support quit and Friday was her last day.  She was terrible and made my stress level go up.  I have somebody else now and couldn't be happier.

Maybe I'm just on the upswing on manic depression.  I do think that I suffer mildly from this.  When I'm stressed, it seems to rear its ugly head.  I don't know if it could really be that.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Struggling

I feel like I've been struggling lately with feeling down in the dumps.  I don't know if its just the time of year or if it is depression.  I've been trying to get birth control figured out and its made me very tired, cranky and not myself.  I think that combined with a natural tendency to be a bit manic depressive has been weighing on me.  I need warmer weather and sunshine.  That will make my world a brighter place.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring Online Shopping

This morning at work I did a bit of online shopping.  I spent around $115 on seeds and plants for my garden.  I buy certain things online that I can't find here.  I bought 5 types of cucumber seeds, apple, burpless, pickling and white cucumbers.  I bought at least 6 types of pumpkins, Lady Godiva, moon, Kaikai, warty pumpkins and regular ones for Jack o Lanterns.  I bought 3 types of potatoes, red, yellow and fingerling ones.  I also bought sweet potato plants for the first time.  Persian carrots, Indian corn, parsnips and peas were also purchased.  I also bought Walla Walla onions.  I also bought a couple melons like Minnesota Midget and a short maturity cantaloupe.

I will still need to buy more of the ordinary seeds like spinach, corn, radishes, beans, okra and beets.  I will also go to the local nursery to buy tomatoes, several types of peppers, eggplant, cabbage, celery, broccoli and cauliflower.  I also want to buy several plants of fresh herbs.

I know I spend a lot on my garden and I don't feel guilty about it at all.  Gardening is my hobby that relaxes me and feeds my family (at least somewhat). I like planting new things and seeing how they turn our or don't.

Do you garden?  Are you itching to get your hands dirty?  What's the most unique thing you plant?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

State Tax Refund

I was too cheap to pay the $35 to file my state taxes with Turbo Tax.  I printed off the form, filled it out and sent it in via snail mail.  I mailed it the last week of January.  I just thought to check the status today and it was received.  Who knows how long before we get our refund of $196.

I also made another payment to the pick-up bringing the balance to $7000.  This will be the last payment for about a month except for my reimbursement check.  I want this debt gone.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Debt Payoff

The only debt we have is Y's pick-up.  We bought this is July 2014 for $30,000.  He had a trade in with his old pick-up for $3000 and we put $10,000 down.  We put $2000 on a credit card which we paid right away and financed $15,000 at 2.66%.  My thought when we financed it was to divert our money into our retail stock account rather than pay extra on this loan.  My goal was to have at least $15,000 in our stock account by the end of the year.  We actually had $20,000 at the end of 2014.

This brings me back to this loan.  I've been paying between $5-600 monthly on it.  The balance the beginning of this month was $12,000.  Y and I decided that we want this debt gone.  We want to lower our monthly obligations and we are waiting for a market correction.  I paid $200 earlier this month when I received a reimbursement.  Yesterday for payday, I paid another $3600 to it bringing the balance to about $8200.  I want this gone ASAP but I'm not willing to drain our savings account.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

I Miss Some Bloggers

I miss some bloggers and wonder how they're doing.  I miss my boy Rafiki.  Are you married to P?  I miss Canadian Saver.  How are your horses and cats?  I miss Judy.  How are you coping and what's going on in your life?  I miss Sunflowers.  How is married life?  I miss Sarah.  How is it with 2 kids?  I miss Dog Ate My Finances.  You were so snarky but I mostly agreed with you.  I miss Money Mate Kate.  I loved hearing NYC massage stories.  I miss Schtinkykat.  How is your new pad?  Tanner, how are you?  Are you still around?  There are so many others that have stopped blogging and I always wonder.

If any of you are reading this, come back and give us an update.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Grocery Spending

Our grocery spending for February was $694.  Combined with January, that puts us at $1161 for the year, under my goal of $600 a month.  February was more expensive because we needed to stock up after eating the fridge and pantry down in January.  I also made a stop at Trader Joe's when I was in the Twin Cities last month.  I love that store.  I love the cheeses, the produce, the pasta, the sauces, all of it!  The prices are so good there compared to my town.

Lil Bud has really started to eat a lot.  I've had to cook more food to feed us all.  I still take leftovers for lunch everyday.  Y shops for groceries just for his lunch and keeps them at work.  I've also started to occasionally pack lunch for Lil Punk.  Overall, we're just eating a lot more food which translates to more spent at the grocery store.

We spent $134 on eating out this month.  That included me treating my friend to lunch, a play date for Lil Punk at McDonald's, having tacos with Y when he was working late and a few other lunches out.  We eat out very infrequently and I don't see this as an area of concern.  Unless we're in town for a specific event, its harder for us to go out to eat than whip something up at home.  We even had a special Valentine's dinner at home with delicious shrimp from Trader Joe's.

How was your February for grocery spending?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Comp Plan Change

I'm in sales and compensation plans are always changing.  Mine is changing as of next month.  I probably should be happy but I'm not.  The new plan has a higher incentive for higher sales but lowers our guarantee.  I've never had to rely on my guarantee.  Furthermore, with the new plan, I would have made an additional $9000 last year.  I guess this is further reason that we need to live far below our income so we can offset any unexpected income changes.

On a lighter topic, I'm making dark beer beef stew today with carrots, parsnips, and new potatoes.  I'm using Amber Bock to make the sauce.  It should be delicious!  Has anybody ever made dark beer stew?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Life Update

I've neglected this blog lately, largely due to being busy and not focused on any financial matters.  I've done a bit is shopping in the last month or two.  We still haven't bought new loving room furniture.  Our savings is sitting at $11,100 currently.  My commission check for month was the lowest that its been for a long time.  That's what I get for going on vacation last month.  This month has been much better so my check next month will be better.

We've had a number of expenses that have been cash flowed this year: vacation, dental work, and propane.  After last year's exorbitant propane prices, I contracted 400 gallons at $1.89 a gallon.  The price dropped to $1.59 so my hedge set me back about $100.  But if I would have hedged last year, I would have been ahead about $800.  I guess you just never know.

We had Y's folks over yesterday for an impromptu dinner.  His grandpa also came and had tacos for the first time ever.  He liked tacos but I can't believe he's never had them before.

We have an easygoing day today.  The weather is cold like the rest of the country, 16 below, 41 below with the wind chill.  I'm going to bake a whole chicken.  Lil Punk has skating lessons later so I will bring her to that.  I should also return a few items to a friend of mine and give her some of my baby things as she's expecting.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Should Be Sleeping...

I have developed an issue with insomnia.  I wake up 2-4 nights a week and I'm not able to get back to sleep for a couple hours.  I hate it and the more I try not to do it, the worse it gets.  I'm not overly stressed at work or anything.  I'm just dealing with normal stuff.

Today I just woke up at 5:30 and can't get back to sleep.  I will get up in a few minutes to get ready for the day.  I'm going out of town today and still haven't packed.  Since it will be a late night tonight, I wish I had that extra hour of sleep.

It probably doesn't help that I slept with Lil Bud (Baby G) last night since 1.  He was flailing all over the place and kept waking up.  I think he must not be feeling well.  Lil Punk was up coughing last night too.  I always worry about them when I'm gone even though Y is more than capable and a very involved father.  I can't imagine having a partner who didn't contribute equally to parenting.

Off to get ready, work for a couple hours and hit the road!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Random Updates

It's not even noon today and it's been stressful already.  I hope the day goes smoother from here.  I am out of town on Thursday and Friday.  I did well last year at my job so they are taking the sales people who qualified out for dinner, drinks and a hockey game.  My company covers my hotel and mileage.  I will also get my $1000 gift card for meeting the sales goal for last year.  I still have the $1000 gift card from last year.  I'm going to request Lowes so we can get our front covered porch complete.

The energy stocks I purchased in the last couple month are up about $600.  I'm going to hold on to them because I think they will increase a bit more.

My kiddos are getting so big.  We had Lil Punk's conferences yesterday.  She is doing amazing at kindergarten.  She's very smart academically but struggles socially.  She is painfully shy and its so hard to watch.  I was like that also and I hope she is able to overcome her shyness sooner than later.

Baby G is no longer a baby.  He is running around and into everything.  He's blonde and has a full head of hair.  At only 14 months, he definitely has hockey hair.  He's charming, easygoing and loves his food.  He's over the top about his food.

Happy Tuesday!!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Financial Update

I filed our taxes on Friday and am happy to report that we are getting back $3251 from our federal refund.  I was too cheap to pay for Turbo Tax for out state filing so I will do that on my own.  We were only going to get about $1550 back until I entered our daycare expenses.  Since our daycare expenses are going down for this year and my income is a bit sporadic, I'm going to leave our deductions the same.

Y and I have talked it over and we plan to buy new living room furniture.  We are going to get 2 couches and a large chair with matching ottomans.  We have looked at the set a couple times and know what we want.  We will wait until we have the refund in hand to purchase anything.  The set costs around $4500 so it will take the refund and a portion of my bonus.  It's Lazboy and leather so very comfy and it looks good, too.

 I did have the root canal done before I went on vacation.  It was hurting intermittently and I didn't want it to bother me while in vacation.  The cost was $1307which I paid out of pocket. I submitted it to my insurance and am waiting on a reimbursement check for around $760.  After that has been processed, I will also submit to my medical flex for my portion of the root canal and crown, approximately $980 between the two.  Since I will be requesting a flex reimbursement, I will also add in our daycare expenses for January and February.  I think that only the portion that was withheld from January will be reimbursed at this time, probably about $408.

After buying for our furniture, I will beef up our savings account.  It's current balance is around $5400 so its on the low end of what I prefer to have in cash.  At least I say this now.  I've found it hard not to buy more cheap energy stocks.  I have about $7500 in BP, Conoco and Halliburton stocks that I've bought in the last month or so.  I would like to buy more when they are cheap.

We had a get together for Superbowl today.  It was fun to hang out with our friends and eat good food.  I was pretty disappointed that the Seahawks couldn't pull it together in the end.  Overall, I'm just happy that the Packers didn't make it to the Superbowl (spoken from a true Vikings fan).  Did you watch the Superbowl?  Any favorite commercials?  I liked the Budweiser ones but overall felt they were lacking originality.  The half time show was mediocre.  Katy Perry has a great voice but you couldn't hear it.  The special affects for the halftime were very good though.  I liked Missy Elliot singing old school.  What was your favorite part?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bonus!!!

My boss called me on vacation and told me that she had big news for me.  She gathered a bunch of my coworkers and put me on speaker phone.  She then told me that I received a prestigious award within my company that was accompanied by a $2000 net bonus.  Woohoo!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Vacation Recap

We got back yesterday from our Florida vacation and we had a great time.  It was so relaxing to hang out with my family without an agenda.  We had a few things that we wanted to do but nothing rock solid or on a schedule.  We did end up doing a lot of things.  Here are the highlights.

We went on a swamp tour on an airboat and saw a ton of alligators, probably around 25-30.  Some were very big, at least 11-12 feet.  The water was colder than the sun so they were sunning themselves.  We also saw other wildlife like birds and turtles.  It was very neat to see them in their natural habitat.

We went to Magic Kingdom, aka Disney World.  Disney knows how to do stuff right.  We had a blast taking in the street parades, light show, rides, and overall decor.  We waited over an hour so Lil Punk could see Elsa and Anna.  She was so excited.

We went to Cocoa Beach and I saw the ocean for the first time.  It was beautiful.  We loved it there.  We actually drove over to Cocoa Beach twice because we liked it so much.  I could definitely live on the beach.

We also went to the world's largest McDonald's, went to downtown Disney, went shopping and swam in the heated pool every day.  It was so much fun.

We rented a car to get around.  I wanted GPS so I upgraded to a 2015 Tahoe.  It was super fun to drive and very comfortable for the 4 of us.  As much as I liked that car, there is no way I would pay $45-50,000 for one.

The challenges were flying with children.  Baby G had 3 terrible poops on the flight home.  Ugghh!!  He also had a habit of digging through the garbage in the room to try to get a snack.  Neither kid was on the tight sleeping schedule that we keep at home.  Going out to eat at restaurants with a 1 year old was very difficult.  When Baby G sits down to eat, he demands food right away, not in 20 minutes.  This makes dining out at a normal restaurant pretty much impossible.

I will do a financial post about the cost of the trip soon but we were under budget at least ;). I just think that I may have over budgeted in my zest for vacation.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dental Costs--Uggh!

A week and a half ago, I went in to get a temporary crown.  After insurance, I had to pay $438.  To top it off, I had severe pain in the tooth that had the temporary crown.  I called my dentist's office on Thursday and they told me to come in.  After looking to make sure that the temporary wasn't causing me any pain, she asserted that I now needed a root canal which I need to be referred to an endodontist for.

The endodontists office called me on Friday and I told them I was in discomfort.  They were able to fit me in on Monday and the full payment of $1307 was due upfront because they didn't have time to get preauthorization from my dental insurance which would cover 60% of the cost.  So today my tooth doesn't hurt at all.  Not even a little bit.  Should I cancel my appointment for Monday?

Also, I'm a bit wary of overzealous dentists because its very VERY easy to recommend different dental procedures as necessary and who really knows if you need it.  Y has had bad luck with a dentist before and it makes me wonder if all of this is really necessary.  I might need to find a different dentist and get a second opinion on this root canal business.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Use It Up Edition

We are on a mission to eat our pantry, fridge and freezer down before we leave on vacation.  We haven't done a major grocery shop since before Christmas.  I've only purchased milk, produce and bread. Our fridge is getting pretty bare but we still have miscellaneous sauces and dressings that need to be used.  This past week, we've had some interesting meals like gumbo over pasta, sesame chicken (which was delicious but I've had that sauce for awhile), and hamburger potpie.  These are all meals that we eat but many times we opt for easier meals during the week when we're rushed. This coming week I have the following planned:
Spaghetti with meat sauce
Ham and bean soup
Chicken in the crock pot
Tuna hotdish
Salmon sandwiches--never made these before but I have a can of salmon to be used.

This has made for some interesting meals but I am not doing a full grocery shop before leaving.  Thankfully my family will pretty much eat anything.

Anybody else focusing on using up everything for this January?


Monday, January 5, 2015

Florida Suggestions

We are going to Orlando on January 22 through 27.  We are staying in Kissimmee.  We are renting a car so we can get around.  This is what we plan to do:
Airboat ride to see wildlife
Sea World
Lunch/tea with characters-- we are not going to Disney so this limits where we can go but suggestions are welcome
Cocoa beach--maybe?

Any other ideas?  We want to relax but still have fun.  We don't think Disney would be very fun with Baby G who is almost 14 months.  Any suggestions about the plane ride with two little ones?  I'm very nervous about that.

Any and all advice is appreciated.  Thanks.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Goals

Financial:
1.  Increase retail investment account to $50,000 (currently at just over $20,000)
2.  Keep grocery budget to $600 monthly
3.  Pay off pick-up (currently at $13,150)
4.  Increase retirement savings to $150,000 (currently at about $116,000)
5.  Save $1000 in cash
6.  Keep our savings accounts to $10,000 (currently at $6000)

Personal:

  1. Run a 5k
  2. Get to and maintain weight of 130 (currently at 134)
  3. Go camping at least 2 times
  4. Go on 1 date night per month
  5. Plant 2 new nut or berry trees or shrubs
  6. Finish covered porch
  7. Plant regular and vine garden