Debt Snowball Progress: March 2018

We’ve hit a plateau with the debt snowball. We don’t seem to be gaining any momentum at the present time and it is downright frustrating.

I know, I need to live by my new mantra, “progress not perfection” even when it comes to our finances, but it’s hard. I HATE this dumb student loan. Seriously, it never seems to go away and every month we pay approximately $120 for the privilege of having it.

That’s over $1,400 every year out of our pockets to the Department of Education just for interest.

While March did prove to be a little warmer and sunnier than February, it didn’t bring as much hope and optimism in our finances as we had wanted.  We again only paid the minimum on the student loan. However, we also used the majority of one of Brian’s paychecks towards our goal of budgeting a month in advance. In order to do this successfully, we had to be able to use our March paychecks for our April budget.  This will make budgeting easier as well as ensure we have enough cash in our accounts to pay our bills before they are due.

March did bring with it an unexpected expense as well.

Our beloved dog, Cookie, had to visit the vet. Luckily, what I feared may be diabetes was actually just a bladder infection. The entire ordeal still cost us over $300, which we weren’t planning for at the beginning of the month. Plus we now have to purchase prescription dog food indefinitely. I guess we’ll have to allocate more money to the dog’s budget line item moving forward.

cookie relaxing in the sun.

I didn’t realize a dog could get a bladder infection and I certainly didn’t know how to collect a dog urine sample until now. I’m sure it was a funny sight to see me chasing our dog around with a soup ladle as she tried to find the perfect spot to pee on a crisp March morning.

This month we did plan for extra money in our family entertainment so that we could take a one day trip to Chicago over Cassidy’s spring break. She’s been longing to go back to the American Girl Doll store. Since Amelia has never been there, we are all going for a day trip together. Otherwise, spring break will be hanging out at home and hopefully enjoying some outdoor play if the weather is nice enough.

the girls at the American Girl Doll store with their dolls

Next month, an additional challenge to our budget will be Amelia’s surgery. With that will comes a large co-pay (thank goodness for insurance) and prescriptions, follow-up appointments, etc. It was almost one year ago that she got her adenoids out and tubes put in. Unfortunately, she has to go back in to get tubes put back in and her tonsils out this year. We are hopeful that this will solve all of those issues and she can avoid surgery again any time soon.

Income report from March:

Total extra income                                   $ 0

 

Current outstanding student loan debt        $28,200

 

Be sure to check out pervious month debt snowball updates.

Progress not Perfection: A Mantra for the Overwhelmed

Do you find yourself feeling anxious, heart racing, with an inability to focus on one thing?

You may be experiencing feelings of overwhelm. I know, because I have this feeling A LOT.

I look at my kitchen and see the pile of dishes that need to be washed. A quick glance to the left, and there is the disgustingly dirty stovetop. Oh and what about the refrigerator with drips, sticky spots and old leftovers. Queue the feelings of overwhelm.

The way my mind works, I know all of those things need to be done, and I won’t be happy and relaxed until the entire list is completed. But then as I start to put the clean dishes away I notice crumbs in the drawers. All of the sudden my list of kitchen clean-up to-dos has become several pages long.

No person could accomplish it all in a day or even a week while also tending to their other responsibilities.

This is just one brief example of how I become overwhelmed quickly, and it happens in every area of my life. Instead of feeling accomplished with what I get done I often focus on what I didn’t get done.

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A Few of My Favorite Things – March 2018

 

 

 

 

 

It’s finally March, which means spring is coming. What better way to celebrate spring than with a few of my favorite things. I never seem to have a shortage of items for this monthly article. In fact, in my office, I have a post-it, one of my former favorite things, (link) where I jot down ideas for future months. I’m not sure I’ll ever run out of ideas to share because I am constantly finding or remembering cool things that I love and haven’t shared with you yet.

So without further ado let’s get started:

Contigo Cortland Water Bottle

Contigo cortland water bottle

As a water connoisseur, in fact, it’s all I really drink, I have tried many different types of water bottles over the years. I finally found one I really like. It is my second Contigo water bottle, but this one wins because it easily fits into the cup holder in my car. This water bottle goes everywhere with me. I love that it has the ounces on the side of the bottle so I can monitor how much I am drinking. While I drink primarily water every day, I don’t get enough of it, so monitoring my intake is important.

I love the flip cap so I can keep germs and food out of my water bottle, especially since I take it with me into elementary schools on a daily basis for work. There is a clip so you can attach it to a bag so you don’t even have to carry it. But the single best feature is that there is a simple button to push in order to release the water. This is important to me because it means that Amelia, who is 3, can’t drink out of it.

Yes, I love my kids, but I am not the kind of mother who loves to share her drinks with children who backwash. I am not interested in having any sort of floaties or food remnants sitting on the lip of my water bottle. She has not yet figured out how to push the button in. It is very easy for me to use, but not for her. But even when she can figure that out, there is a locking mechanism on the bottle that can prevent the button from being pushed in. Even more safety from my child and her germs! I’m certain that probably isn’t the reason for these features, but I think they are great for this reason. The water bottle is around $10 so the price point is perfect for this frugal mom.

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Avoid extra trips around the store: make your grocery list work

Have you ever gotten all done shopping just to discover that you forgot something on your grocery list? Perhaps it was written in small print at the bottom of the list. Or maybe in your excitement to cross items off you accidentally crossed the wrong thing off your list.

Then you are left with a decision. Is the item that important that you have to go back through the store to find it or can you just wait until the next time you go shopping.

I cannot count the number of times I have to go back and forth in the grocery store because I forget something. It is so frustrating and time-consuming. The only thing that makes this worse is when you have small children along with you. If they aren’t losing their mind from the boredom of grocery shopping, then they are trying to convince you of all the food items you “need.” I bet more than once you’ve spent extra money at the store just because you had to walk by items more than once. The second or third time by you were convinced to buy something you didn’t need up.

There is a solution to this problem.

Well, there are several solutions, but one that I think is the most practical and economical.

The solution is all about how you make your list. This is assuming that you use a list at all. If you don’t yet use a list, well that’s a great place to start. For those already using lists (paper or electronic) and still struggling with this problem then you’ve come to the right place.

I’m sure you’re going to be shocked to hear me say you need an organized list! (queue the sarcasm)

Yes, it may take an extra 2 minutes when preparing your list.However, it will likely save you time, headache, and expense when you are in the store.

Quickly jot down what you need to get at the store on a scratch piece of paper. Then transfer it to the organized shopping list.

GROCERY SHOPPING LIST

I have several blank copies of my organized shopping list in my Sunday basket. They are easy to access, and it takes me 1-2 minutes to transfer my jotted down list onto.

You could also have the organized list on the refrigerator where everyone can write down the items they need as they think of them. If you are an electronic list maker, just make these same categories on your electronic list.

My list is organized by categories of items we frequently shop for at the store. Yours may be different.

The key is to keep like items that are found at the store together. Then you won’t forget to pick one up.

Another variation on this list is to put more specific categories. Put these in the order in which you find them in the store. I prefer just general categories because I tend to shop at two different stores and the stores are organized differently.

If you shop at multiple stores, you can also indicate which store to buy at or the price at one store to compare which store is better to buy at.

This is your list you can make it as detailed or simple as you want.

Try organizing your list and see if it helps you avoid extra trips around the store and extra money spent on items you weren’t planning to buy.

If you have little ones and grocery shopping is your one break from the chaos at home, try saving time with this list. Then use that extra time for yourself. There is no harm in pretending it took you the normal 1-2 hours to grocery shop and sitting in your car to read. It’s one more way to find time to read.

Good luck on your next shopping trip. May you not have to walk through the store multiple times to find what you need.

Why and How We Store Toys Without Using Toy Boxes

One of the biggest conundrums of every parent – how do you store toys?

The landscape of your house changes drastically when you welcome children into your home and continues to change with every year they live there.

From playmats, jump-a-roos and exersaucers to Legos, Shopkins and ride along toys there is never a shortage of things to trip over, step on or clean up day after day.

No matter how hard we have tried to keep our floors clear of toys, it is inevitable that they will clutter our spaces for years to come. I know, I know, someday I will miss it.  I don’t doubt the truth in that sentiment, but it doesn’t help to make it less annoying in the moment.

How in the world do little people make such a big, dangerous mess in mere minutes left alone?

 We have many different ways to store toys in our house, but we do not have any traditional toy boxes. This is not to say we didn’t ever have them, because we did. In fact, at one time we had traditional toy boxes in two rooms of our house. A year or two ago we eliminated these toy boxes from our house for one big reason – they weren’t practical.

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Debt Snowball Progress- February 2018

I am so glad February is the shortest month of the year, and not because of our finances — though I won’t complain about the positives of that. It’s because I’m sick and tired of the weather. By February in the Midwest, most people are done with the winter. We’ve hit our max of cold days. We no longer want to be couped up inside with dry skin and germs. It seems everywhere we turn people are coughing, sniffling and complaining about being sick.

March, while still cold and dreary, is a month of hope. We’re almost out of the dreaded winter. Even if we get a big snowstorm, it’s not likely to stick around too long.

So good-bye February and hello March.

February is also a good month for most people’s budgets.

With February being the shortest month there are 2-3 fewer days to spend your hard-earned money. This should mean savings in food expenses, gas, electric, water, etc. For some of those utilities you don’t see the savings until March, but still, something to be thankful for.

However, it is not a good month for everyone’s budgets. Year after year Brian shares stories about his co-workers who get in a bit of a bind because they don’t plan. His job is hourly, and they are paid twice a month on the 15th and the last day of the month. His co-workers are not dumb people, but it seems that every single February they forget that their paychecks will reflect the shorter month. With 2-3 fewer days an hourly person is going to make less money.

So the hourly employee who is paid twice a month needs to either set aside money in the good months (those with 31 days) for the shorter months (February).

Otherwise they need to be willing to cut their expenses in February.  If you are struggling with your budget this February, think about ways to not let that happen next February, because I have a secret for you. February is always going to be the shortest month, even in Leap Year, it’s still the shortest month.

The way that we budget Brian’s end of February check will not impact our budget until March. We are fully prepared for the smaller paycheck and plan accordingly.

We also received our tax refund this month, and we used that money to essentially increase our emergency savings. I want us to move to a system of budgeting where we use the previous month’s income to dictate the next month’s allocations. For instance, starting in March, our March budget will be created using all of the income from February. The only way to make this happen was to temporarily beef up our emergency fund.

This way of budgeting will allow us to better allocate our money at the beginning of the month.

This can be a difficult change to make because you must have an extra months worth of income to be able to do it. Between our income tax refund and one month of not paying extra on the student loan, we were able to make this switch.

Due to this switch, this month was slow and steady in the area of our budget snowball. We just paid the minimum due but will be back on track for extra payments next month.

 

Income report from February

Cashback from credit card                 $200.55

Cash back from Ebates                      $ 69.41

Total extra income                               $ 269.96

 

 

Current outstanding student loan debt        $28,400

 

Be sure to check out our complete debt snowball progress month by month.

How I Find Time to Read

It’s no secret I love to read. I have loved to read since I learned 30+ years ago. For me it is not a question of if I will read, it is how I will find time to read?

I firmly believe that if you want to do something badly enough you will find a way to do it, within reason. No matter how badly I may want to play professional basketball (I don’t) I will never find a way to do it.

I have a lot of things I want to do in my free time, but when push comes to shove there are some things that I MAKE time for. This is how I know what my favorite past-times are – reading always, exercise sometimes.

Look no further than my Goodreads account to see how much I love to read. Last year I read 64 books, and this year my goal is 75.

Yes, I read 64 books, and I work full-time, have this blog, raise two children and find time to exercise. How do I do it all? Well, first of all, there are a lot of things I don’t do, and second I can’t stop myself from reading.

As my seven year old niece says, “I have the reading disease.”

It’s a disease I can’t get rid of, which is fine by me because I sort of love it. The only way to treat it is to read A LOT.

So if you too have the reading disease, but you are struggling to find time to “treat” the disease, I have some ideas you will want to try.

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A Few of My Favorite Things – February 2018


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February is here, which means we are one month closer to spring. Overall, it hasn’t been a bad winter, but it has been a bit unpredictable. One day we wear all of our winter gear and have inches of snow, and then a few days later it’s muddy and feels like the first days of spring. It’s hard to adjust to the back and forth precipitation and temperatures.

We are ready for spring around our house, in fact, I’m so ready I skipped over decorating the house with snowmen this year.

To brighten things up around here in this dreary February (well at least for those of us living in the Midwest) I’m bringing a few of my favorite things.

Alright, so my first two are going demonstrate what a huge nerd I am.

Post-its

It’s true, I love Post-its. I’m not sure I could live without post-its in my life. I use them for everything including notes, to-do-lists, to mark pages I want to hold in books, and even as entertainment for the kids.

In my book, all post-its are great (small, big, with lines, without lines, fun shapes, tab post-its, etc.). When it comes to post-its, I am completely brand loyal. Post-it brand is by far superior, and I don’t even waste money on the other brands.

 

The post-it tabs are great for marking chapters in textbooks, or where you are in a bible study or journal.

One particularly long car ride with the girls Amelia was melting down. I don’t blame her, six hours in a carseat for a two year old can be pretty tough. There isn’t much to entertain them, and we don’t do movies in the car. One day at home, we had discovered her love of post-its. I had some post-its in my bag (doesn’t everyone have a variety of post-its on hand for an emergency?). I pulled out the little tab ones and handed them over. The cost for those was approximately $3, which was well worth the whole hour of quiet we got out of Amelia when she started playing with them. They were stuck all over the car and herself, but the best part – they are easy to take off and throw away.

Did you know that post-its were created in 1968 when a scientist failed at making a super strong adhesive? They were marketed as post-its in 1979. Proof that great things can come from failures.

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Simple Ways to Make Extra Money

Need a little extra money?

I know there are a million ways to make extra money, but these are a few of the ones we have done to get our debt snowball moving.  I’m usually on the lookout for more, but I have also discovered that time is money, and I have to consider the return on investment. Meaning: is the amount of time I invest worth the money I earn?

It would be easy for me to say that I should do everything that I come across that earns or saves money because we still have debt to pay. I’ll be honest, it is very difficult for me to say no to some money-making and money-saving ventures, but it is necessary. I am, just like all of you, given 24 hours in a day, and I cannot run myself ragged just to save a dollar. Our debt snowball is a marathon, not a sprint, and I need to treat it as such. My time is worth something, and therefore I carefully consider the money making and money saving ventures I partake in.

Below is a list of the things that I have done and am still doing to make extra money. Getting a smartphone changed my ability to deal shop. I think my deal shopping now will pay the additional price per month for my phone. I can’t believe I had a flip phone until December 2015, seriously even the Baby Boomers are more tech savvy than me.

Coupons:

This one ebbs and flows. It depends on how much time I have. We do a lot of grocery shopping at Aldi, which doesn’t take coupons, but prices are so good there you don’t even need them. For more information about how to organize your coupons check out Coupon Clipping for Ordinary Moms.  I do not spend much time organizing or cutting coupons at all, and I do NOT (usually) buy things we don’t need.

Ibotta:

This is super easy to use. Some items you have to scan the item and the receipt and for some items you just scan the receipt. Then once you earn $20 you need to send the money to your PayPal account. The more friends you have on your team, the better, plus you can earn referral bonuses. You refer a friend to save money, and you get money too. Win-Win.

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One Easy Way to Save Money on Diapers and Pull-ups

One of the single largest expenses you will have after welcoming a new baby into your home is diapers. You will find yourself wondering how in the world one little person can go through so many diapers in a single day.

You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to save money on diapers.

There were times that I looked at my daughters and told them (not that they understood a word I was saying) that I was going to take the 25 cents per diaper from their college fund. It was most frustrating when you had just changed them and they dirtied a new diaper before you even finished putting it on.

You will start by buying newborn (or preemie if your baby is born early or just small like Amelia) then onto size 1 and 2 and 3 or even larger. As they get bigger the price per diaper or pull-up increases.

You’ll play the game of how much longer do I have to buy diapers. Okay, I’m going to stock up one last time and then I’m sure they will be fully potty-trained and I won’t need anymore, right?!?

Wrong.

As my girls got older I tried to rationalize with them.

They needed to be potty trained so that we could stop buying diapers and save money for our next vacation. It never worked.

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