Saturday, December 31, 2011

December and Year in Review

Blogging: .November has 15 post including this one. For the year 132 post, 30 less than last year and an average of 11 per month. My plan is to continue blogging next year so this goal will stay the same. 
Goal: 15 per month

Devotions: Thanks to my sister in law for a sample but awesome Devotional book. I have met this goal for the first time this year! I am going to continue with this goal. With the plan to be success each week and not have to think about it so much!
Goal is 3 a week.

Couponing/Grocery Budgeting: See previous post.

Our Grocery Budget is set at $800 per month, this includes diapers, cleaning supplies, food and toiletries.

Financially:  See previous post.

Weight- This one is going to require serious work and commitment to. I have a goal in my head to be at 150 by next December. So I have written it make it more real maybe!
Goal to exercise 3x a week.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Budget-Year in Review and Goals

I have had a goal all year of keeping our grocery budget $800 or less, in addition in the last several months I have add to that of getting our "baby" Emergency Fund" at $500. At the beginning of the year last year, I had in mind that we would be out of debt except for our mortgage by this point. I will say up front that I did not met these goals completely but I feel like I have made substantial progress. I want to take an good look at the goals from last year as well as establish new one in the area of finance for next year. Look for the final year in review post on Saturday.

Grocery budget-Goal was $800 or less a month. Our average spending per month was $821! Matt and I both have decided that was a success. I am not going to increase this budget at all for 2012. When I look at the numbers that is $26 a week per person, or around $1.10 per person per meal. Of course I will be so happy to come in under this number but I also want to be realistic.

Emergency Fund- We actually met this goal approximately 2 weeks ago, followed by us having to spend $450 of it on a new dryer when ours stopped working. I have found that the best way for us to accomplish this goal is to move $10 a check to the account and then if we "find" more money push it in the account as well. Our goal for 2012 will be to re-establish this fund and increase it to $1000 by June and maintain it at this amount for the rest of the year.

Outstanding debt- This is the area in which we have made the least amount of progress. In one sense, we have been really great, we have not acquired any new debt this year. This includes unpaid medical bills. My goal was to be complete out of debt so this is a failure. My goal will be the same for 2012. The importance of this goal is more pressing as our income will be reduced in June of 2012.

Where did our money go in 2011:
Disney Trip
Vacation at the Beach for a week
New windows for the entire house.
2 New Televisions for our bedroom
Car and Van maintenance.
Taxes paid for 2010 and 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Saving Money- Taking Advantage of Tax Savings

It is the end of the year.. well almost with 3 days left in 2011 I wanted to share a couple of things that you can do to decrease your tax liability.
This is the one that we are taking advantage of, a tax credit for the year when you purchase energy saving items for your home. Check out the list here Energy savers. We have already purchased 4 windows and plan to purchase the additional ones we need to finish the house on Saturday. According to everything I am reading we will get a credit of 10% of the purchase price. We should be closed to the $200. This credit is non-refundable but will be taken off our tax liability.
Next is a simple one- make a donation of money to a charity. We have been doing so all year. I heard a statistic that 40% of all charitable contributions are made in December.
Third- This is another simple thing, donate clothing,toys or household goods that you don't need or have replaced.  If you chose to donate make a list, by doing so you can claim the most value for your items. I have a box of clothing that is marked yard sale, instead I may go ahead and make the donation to simply empty out the close.
Fourth- If you have any outstanding medical bill, the more you pay in one year the more chance you could use this on your taxes. My understanding is that you can only count medical expense you pay out that are more than 17% of your income.
Finally- Make an extra mortgage payment this month or simply pay your January payment in December. This will increase the amount of interest you pay out for the year.

Do you have any other tips?

Monday, December 26, 2011

A "Drama" Free Christmas

To be honest up front, on Friday (23rd), I was thinking that this year,it really felt like Christmas was getting shorten. With December 25th occurring on a Sunday, there was no extra days off and it just didn't seem like it was so close to Christmas. However, as of today (26th) I have really enjoyed my holiday. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I am already planning by BIG decorating for next year! I really wanted to share the highlights. 

Christmas Eve, of course the kids woke up early but I managed to relax in bed till after 7am.  I sent the kids outside to play for an hour followed by cookie making, naps and then it was off to Pawpaw's and Granny's. We really enjoyed spending time with everyone and stay until after 8pm, playing cards and laughing.

Christmas Day we were up bright and early of course. The little ones played with gifts from Santa Claus, we ate an awesome Breakfast casserole and then the kids played with the one unwrapped gift from us till Amanda made it home from work around 7:30am. Everyone got lots of cool toys and electronics. Haley really likes her class ring. Zach will spend hours playing his "drum kit" and the little girls changed their doll clothes at least 3 times prior to church. Church was nice and I even got to hear all the sermon. Last minute plans with the Pierce made the day complete and lots of fun! One surprising fact is that the kids did not watch any television at all on Christmas Day. They played with new toys and friends! I didn't even realize it  until today.

Today, we have slept in again. Matt, myself and the little ones went to Belk's, Ollie's and Walmart. We decided to splurge on new bath towels, wash clothes and a complete new bedding set for our bed. I LOVE it. I will be posting pictures of it this week. Our room is starting to look like adults live in it and it finally feels complete!

No family fights, no sick kids, and no car emergencies make this a really peaceful and relaxing Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Family Pictures

The Highlights so to speak!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lily's Winter Party

I was able to spend all morning in Lily's classroom today. It was nice to meet her friends and watch how she interacted with peers and teachers. I was surprised to learn from her teacher that even in our small area, the teachers are really placed under pressure not to "celebrate" Christmas. In the past the entire month of December would be a time to talk and learn about all things Christmas. But I could not find one single "Christmas" item in the hallway or on her classroom walls. Lily's teacher went on to explain they are given two parties a year and today was one of them.  She arranged the classroom into 6 stations and each group spent about 15 minutes in each area. I was helping with the Reindeer cookies. I may add to these pictures later, another parent promised to send me better ones, since I only had my phone today.

Reading Center

Christmas Bingo-Lily won 3 times

Reindeer Cookies- eaten on the spot

Stocking with picture

Reindeer bag with reindeer food

Gingerbread house-Lily ate all the candy off by the time I got home from work

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kendall's Gold Medal Ceremony

A disclaimer up front, with all the Christmas and year end events happening the past 2 weeks I have lots of pictures that I want to post. So I am scheduling them 12 hours apart. This will be the first with I know at least 2 more going up!

Kendall has been taking gymnastics once a week for 3 or 4 month now. This allows her to participate in a group with neither her parents nor her sisters around. She loves it! On Saturday the 18th they presented a show. You arrived 10 minutes prior to the schedule time, they did a dance, showed off all their skills and got a gold medal. The best part 30 minutes later you are finished! Now to the pictures

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Random Sunday Thoughts

Well it has been awhile at least a month since I post a list of the things going on around here. I do have several post of pictures coming up but they have to get on the computer first.

Upcoming Events
  • Tuesday- Lily's "Winter Party" at school, I get to go and help make Reindeer cookies. My plan is to spend all morning in her classroom, I am thinking that I am more excited about this than she is. Also on Wednesday,  Lily gets to wear her pj to school. I have also heard that Santa will be calling to check in this night as well
  • Thursday- Our Annual family torture called "Family Pictures"  I love pictures but the stress of getting all of us there and dressed and happy is becoming too much. Maybe this will be the last year I force the torture but probably not.
  • Work is really strange, I am working at the Nursing home on Monday. But plan to spend any extra time at home between Christmas and New Year's just to say I was here.
  • Our Christmas present to each other (new TV) for the bedroom is finally schedule to arrive on Wednesday. I ordered it Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving and after 3 phone calls and about 3 hours on the phone with Best Buy. I am hoping it will arrive on schedule but of course when I went to check the status, Best Buy site is down.
Past Events/Other Random Items
  • Both the little Girls have sang at church last Sunday night and this morning as well. Kendall was so proud that you could see her singing all the words. We have been privileged to the practices for the past month.
  • Lily has Flat Stanly for the entire month of December. She has enjoy getting her picture made with him several time. I hope we can at least do one picture/entry a week. She will get to share the journal with her class the first week of January.
  • As of today, the bathroom in our room has a new coat of paint on the walls and ceilings. It also has a television. I am planning to post pictures as soon as the molding goes up. I didn't think it would be such a dramatic change but it is. We now have white ceiling and sand (tan) walls. This room now looks complete!
  • Matt and I have been looking heavily at our budget, I am hoping to have our goal of 500 in Emergency Fund by the end of the year.
  • Along the same lines, we are again taking stock of food and trying to prepare in that area. Since August, when Angel Food stopped, we have been trying to clean out the freezers to get a good idea of what items when have as well as what we need. Today we made a list of 18 different meals/main meats with no repeats. I still love Angel Food and miss it but I did not realize the amount of food we had stored and we just kept getting  more. I now am questioning if this type of bulk food purchases are a good option for our family.
  • A huge success in the area of budgeting for us. NO eating out this weekend! In fact, I have cooked 5 meals this week. We did have soup on Saturday for lunch. We already know that we will be eating out on Thursday but the hope/plan is that will be the only meal out till January as well.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saving Money- A look at the Numbers!

I have made multiple shopping trips since Thursday. The main reason why is that our local grocery store has a stock up deal on Diet Cokes and paper products. I discovered these by accident on Thursday and since it seems we pass a Food Lion almost anywhere we go, I am trying to stock up.  Diet Coke 2 liters are on sale for 0.88 each when you buy four. This is the cheapest I have seen them since September and I have gone through my stockpile and actually have been paying around $1.25 each for the past couple of weeks.
So let's look at these numbers. Standard price for a 2L is $1.25, so far I have purchased 16 at a savings of 0.37 each for 5.92

While picking up a third round of drinks on Friday, I discovered that Hefty paper products are on sale BOGO free, with a coupon on display for 1.00 off 2. So far I have picked up around 300 paper plates, 60 paper bowls and 50 cups. I did send a set home with  my mother to  use at Christmas. I figured out that by using these products instead of the dishwasher twice a day, I am saving at minimum $1.00 a day by reducing our use of  the dishwasher by half. I should have easily enough products to last a month so that is a savings of $30.

Finally, I made a trip out to CVS today because of the information I found on-line, I hoped to get a coupon for 3 12-packs of Diet Coke for $8.00. I was excited to get this coupon. I combined sales and coupons today in order to purchase 9 12-packs of Diet Coke and 4 bags of candy for $25.00. In my calculations, I see the candy as all free because I would not normally purchase it.  My per can cost then is 0.24.  I go through roughly one 12 pack of drinks a week at work. We do have a machine that sells cans for 0.65 each. So by stocking up today I saved 0.42 a can or $4.92 a week. A grand total of $44.98.

Today, I place a whole chicken in the crock pot with several cups of water.  After it cooking all night, I was able to freeze 7 cups of chicken broth. A can of chicken broth is typically 14-15oz or just shy of 2 cups. I saw today that a stock up price on broth was $2.00 for the container, so by freezing the broth I had today I saved at least $6.00. I also was able to shred the cooked chicken that can be used for soups or pies instead of cans.  I should add here that this chicken from Angel Food so I am not sure of the cost.  I figure a good estimate of the savings is $5.00.

My final savings by planning ahead today is $94.00 off our normal grocery bill.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Be Still

Quiet, rest... these are the things I find myself desiring more often these days.

 I realized early this year that I was not going to be able to "do" all the things I usually do in regards to decorating for Christmas. Or I should say that if I did then I would not be able to enjoy the important things like making memories with the little kids and enjoying the wonder and awe. So in an effort to scale back, I only put up my snow village and a Christmas tree.  I don't regret that decision even when Lily asked last week, when we were going to get our yard stuff out.  Of course, we have been super busy, in fact I am fairly certain that each night since the beginning of December has had an activity or something that needed to get done. I know I have not sat down and an entire evening at home in that long.  Things are starting to slow this week, Haley will be at her fathers and we only have one commitment on Saturday that should last less than an hour. My sister in law, who regularly reads this blog, understood that I was having a difficult time keeping up with my devotions; she sent me a small devotional book to help. It has been awesome! I can actually say that I am in week two of daily devotions. On Monday, God gave me a huge reminder that I need to stop and enjoy the season, more importantly enjoy the reason for the season. These words are such a strong pull to me, they keep coming to my head and I am trying to when they do find a way to stop, be still and listen/enjoy.

Isaiah 30:15-"Your salvation requires you to turn back to me  and stop your silly efforts to save  yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me—
                        The very thing you've been unwilling to do." The Message

Isaiah 30:15 "For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel:

"In returning and rest you shall be saved;

In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”

But you would not, "   KJV

I hope they speak to  you as well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Paid to Use Harris Teeter Express Lane

One of the reasons that I like Harris Teeter as a whole is that they are really focused on customer service. I have had only one bad experience with them, and the good one make up the difference. I have said in the past and will say again, "if " they would ever get "Express Lane Order" straight it would be a great thing.  I knew we would be in Winston on Thursday so I took about an hour on Wednesday night to assemble and place our order to be picked up on Thursday.  A big advantage this week was that they waiving the $4.95 fee.  After hitting all our stops in record time, we headed to Harris Teeter. I knew that we were mostly likely going to have a wait when there was a car in front of us, using the Express Lane. We ended up waiting around 20 minutes to get our order after the car in front of us finished. I am still not sure what happened to our order to start with but that seem to take longer than usual as well. Next, after bring the groceries to the car, I realized he had not subtracted my coupons from the previous trip.  When planning this trip, my estimate was that we would end up paying around $10 and I have 15 in coupons to use for the next order. But something even better happened, they ended up charging $23.83 on our debit card, handing us back $25.02 and I have $15 in coupons for the next order. I do know that we received $5 for waiting the 20 minute but as for the rest of the math, I still have not figured it out.  We ended up being paid to take groceries home!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


With Birthday Cotton Candy Crown

Done with the pictures already!
Watching Tiana

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lily's Birthday Celebrated


Birthday's are a big deal around here even if we get to celebrate one at least every other month! This year instead of a big or small party we decided to take Lily, the whole family and her best friend to see Disney on Ice. Our biggest tradition is that the celebrator gets to pick the dinner restaurant. So Lily chose Olive Garden. We were meet at the restaurant by our friends the Pierces. Then of course the plans changed and Nancy, the mom, went to Disney on Ice  with us while Haley went home with Andrea and of course to youth group. The pictures above are from the restaurant and I will post more from Disney on Ice     Just for the record, I was able to get awesome seats at a discounted rate simply by ordering in a group of 8!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

OH the Things You Hear

I decided this year to scale back on my Christmas decorations. But one of the few items that we brought down from the attic was the Fisher Price Little People Nativity Scene. This was a gift from several years ago that I absolute love and the kids have been playing with for several days now. However this gift comes with one problem....things that are said that you should really never hear at Christmas.

"Take Baby Jesus out of your mouth."
"No Baby Jesus can not slide down the stable roof"
"Why are you putting Baby Jesus in time out?"
"A camel does not say woof, but that is okay just this year"
"Please share the donkeys with your sisters, you don't need both the Baby and the donkeys."
"Leave Baby Jesus alone and go watch TV while I get dressed."
"Why is the cow sitting on top of the stable?"
"Yes, I realize that the cow plays music out of it's butt when you sit it there."
"No, I won't make Zach give you the baby Jesus because you are a girl" or the alternative is "Zach give baby Jesus back to your sister, she was playing with it first."

I really wish I could put a disclaimer here saying at least one of the above has not been said this year but instead I will add that after repeating the above statements at least 6 times, I am beginning to wonder if this was such a good idea!

This morning as I went in our bathroom, I had to add these

"Please don't give Baby Jesus a bath in toliet."
"Why oh WHY are all these people in the bathroom with me?"