Sunday, December 4, 2011

Taking charge!

I am bound and determined that 2012 is going to be the year that I truly take charge of our finances and become a grown-up!  I feel sometimes like home ownership, marriage, and kids just came out of nowhere and we were in no way prepared for the responsibility of it all.  No more!  I am going to get everything organized and be in control.

Here is the start of my financial control to-do list:
- apply for the boy's social insurance numbers
- get a copy of Brighton's birth certificate
- change my last number on my social insurance card
- open up savings accounts for the kids
- open up RESP accounts for the kids
- file our 2010 taxes (yes, a year late)
- write our wills (this has been on our to-do list for the last 6 years!)
- make a list of all of our accounts and pin numbers/passwords for the safe

I'm sure that this list will grow, but for now, I've got work to do!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Creating Rhythm

I have been reading a fantastic book lately called, "Simplicity Parenting" by Kim John Payne.  It is about "Using the extraordinary power of less to create calmer, happier and more secure kids".  One chapter that I am finding the most challenging (and the most rewarding) is the concept of rhythm.

“Meaning hides in repetition:  We do this every day or every week because it matters.  We are connected by this thing we do together.  We matter to one another.  In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat:  the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime, Saturday morning pancakes.” – Kim John Payne"
 The challenging part of creating rhythm is that it takes time, consistency and patience.  There is also a good deal of trial and error to see what works for our family, and what doesn't.  I will say this -  it is definitely worth the effort.  I used to be very stuck on schedules, but scheduling and rhythm are not one and the same.  Rhythm says that "this is what we do before we go to bed" it does not say "Bedtime is 7pm every night".  We certainly strive for consistency in sleep times, meal times, etc but that is not always possible, and it's very easy with three children to be thrown off a schedule and become frustrated and feel rushed.

In the past when we would start to feel like we had fallen behind on our schedule, routines would fall by the wayside.  Late to bed?  No bath and bed tonight!  Running late for an appointment?  Rush around like a mad man , throw on coats, yell for cooperation, and likely forget things along the way.  But rhythm isn't concerned with time, rhythm creates a comforting flow of activities so that live is more predictable, calm, and manageable.

The wonderful thing about rhythm is that it doesn't just create more calm for the kids, it is definitely helping me as well.  I am looking on establishing more routines in our home and am interested to see the effect it will have on our minds, and our finances.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Feeling Stuck

Nick came to me this weekend, looking rather down and defeated, with a rather familiar lament about feeling stuck.  I wrote about our housing dilemma back in August, and it's still an ongoing concern.  It's easy to say, "You have a beautiful home, just be happy."  But what if you're not?  We have tried to sell without luck, we have had drama with our neighbours that seems to be getting worse before it gets better, and we are living a fair distance away from the city where Nick works.  It's not an ideal situation, and despite trying to make the best of it, it's starting to get the better of us.

I'm trying to do less complaining and more coming up with solutions, so I thought about it.  I weighed options, considered our choices, and then presented what I thought was the best solution to Nick, and he seems to agree.  After the kids are done school for the summer, we are going to rent out our home.  We are not going to make any money off of the rental, in fact we may end up subsidising it a bit.  It will, however, give us the opportunity to move on, and right now that is worth it's weight in gold.

We considering various options afterwards.  We may try living with my mother-in-law for a bit so we are able to stash away some money for rainy days, or we may just start renting in the city right away.  We will find somewhere that is cheaper than what we currently pay on housing and save the rest.  What is important is that we have both a mental and a physical fresh start.

All of the financial responsibility in the world doesn't really matter in the long run if you're ultimately miserable and feeling hopeless.  After our talk I could see a weight lifted off Nick's shoulders, and now we're (cautiously) excited about the prospect.  It's good to have decided this a few months in advance so we can get all of our ducks in a row and be aware of all the pitfalls we may encounter.  And now I have even more motivation on my decluttering path!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Decluttering update!

I'm on a roll now!  Instead of adding a storage cupboard, I eliminated two!  Plus I have more than entire van load to go the Salvation Army.  My kids even got in on the action and got two garbage bags of toys out of their play area.  Already the cleaning is becoming easier around here with less stuff.  This is addictive!

















It feels so good to be making process and moving towards our goal of a more simple lifestyle.  We will never be minimalists to the point of owning only 100 things each, but my goal is that we will get to the point where we don't save things "just in case" and everything in our home is useful, used, and loved.

Friday, October 28, 2011

5 things I'm doing, and 3 I'm not.

It definitely feels like winter is on it's way today!  It's dark and cold outside, and there was not a lot of sleep to be had in our house last night - perfect day to catch up on some work inside.  Nick normally has Friday off, but this week he is in first aid training today and tomorrow, so it's just me and the kidlets with a messy house and a lot of work for me to do.

The things I AM doing today:
- Working, working, working.  We're going to a Halloween event tomorrow night so I want to get ahead of the work game so I'm not overwhelmed tomorrow.
- Cleaning out the fish tank and packing it away.  I sent our gold fish to live at a new home this morning where they will be loved and cared for.  They were being a bit neglected around here.
- Catching up on laundry and cleaning my laundry room
- Cleaning out our basement fridge and getting it ready to go to the dump.  It's been working only intermittently lately and we really don't need two fridges.
- Tidying the playroom and culling the kids toys while they nap.  I've been paying attention to what they play with and what just gets dumped on the floor, so I'm going to make our lives easier and clear out what's not being used.

Things I am NOT doing today:
- Getting dressed.  I'm declaring a pj day since we're not going anywhere - why create more laundry?
- Making lunch.  Seems like a good day for cheese, crackers, and fruit.
- Stressing!  There is lots to do but it will all get done in its own time.  I'm going to enjoy the process of simplifying around here and not worry about what still needs to be done.

I hope that everyone has a peaceful and productive Friday :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Simplifying Halloween

Holidays have always been a spending a pitfall for me - Halloween is a big one (often worse than Christmas).  Growing up my Dad always had the "go big or go home" approach to the holidays.  On Halloween the entire family, including the dog, would have costumes (usually elaborate home made ones my mom laboured over), we would have multiple carved pumpkins for each person,and  a realistic graveyard transported to our front yard - it was completely over the top.... and I LOVED it!

I too adopted this approach to the holidays once I had my own to take care of.  I defined myself by the amount of effort and attention I put into celebrating these holidays.  At last count I had 7 large rubbermaid totes of Halloween decorations.  But this year, I'm not doing it.  We didn't decorate a single thing, not a single tote left our garage.  Halloween is a few days away and I still don't know what I'm wearing.  If it makes me happy to do it, then why aren't I?  It started out as a bit of an experiment, did this way of approaching celebrations really make me happy, or was it just habit to go overboard?

This year we decided to take the kids to a local Halloween party over the weekend, and we are largely going to skip trick-or-treating.  We'll take the kids to a few houses on Halloween, but just enough so that they can consume the small amount of candy in a few days, and then we'll be done.  We aren't decorating our house and we aren't handing out candy.  The not handing out candy decision wasn't an easy one because traditional wisdom would say that you have to give in order to receive, so isn't it wrong for my kids to collect candy if we're not giving it out?  I struggled with this for awhile and then thought of all the years I handed out candy before I had kids (or when my kids were too small for trick-or-treating), and all the years I will hand it out after my kids are too old.  Right now I think my focus needs to be on celebrating with my own family, which is why we're taking the focus away from the trick-or-treating aspect.  I'm also discouraged by hearing of how many people throw out a large amount of the candy they receive because it's "too much".  But if it's too much, then why collect it in the first place?  It seems like such a waste of money and resources to collect more than you intend to consume.  I think it's a good learning experience to say to kids, "Wow, that's a lot of candy!  I think that's enough, don't you?"  It's easy to become greedy when people are handing out something for free you enjoy, but at some point I think you have to learn to stop yourself.

I guess we will find out in a few days how our experiment in simplifying Halloween goes.  So far though, I'm loving it!  No decorations cluttering my house, no extra stuff to dust around, and nothing to put away at the end of the season.  The kids and I have been reading Halloween books and making crafts and thoroughly enjoying the season together.  We're planning on having a big garage sale in the spring to sell of all of the excess.  It feels good to find some space and enjoy the holidays rather than stress about them.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Working as a team

Any financial expert out there will tell you that the secret to a happy financial life as a family is working together as a team, but sometimes this is easier said than done.  There are loads of blogs out there that will give you tips to get your partner on board with you, but ultimately for us we both had to come to our own decision that we wanted to change how we were living our lives.

Over the weekend Nick came to his own, "A ha!" moment.  Last night he said to me, "I've made the decision that we really need to take this environmentally concious lifestyle as far as we can."  I felt like shouting "Halleleujah!" from the rooftop.  He sat down and watched the same documentaries as I did and came to the same conclusions - things have got to change.  We're not under any delusions that changes happen over night, but it's a day by day effort to work towards the life that you want to live.

One decision that we had already made was that we were going to limit the kids Christmas presents and instead have a family weekend together.  The family weekend we were planning to take involved driving 3 1/2 hours away to West Edmonton Mall to stay at The Fantasyland Hotel and spend the weekend at the amusement park and water park.  Nothing about this weekend was sustainable or frugal.  Would the kids enjoy it?  Of course they would!  Would it represent the lifestyle we want to cultivate for our family?  No.

Instead of having a commercialized weekend away, we are going to set aside a weekend in January to spend together as a family.  We're going to purchase some used cross country skis or snowshoes and get out together in the mountains.  We'll visit the public wave pool and play board games together at home.  And all of this will be much cheaper, more relaxing, and will support the future we want for us as a family.

I can't even convey how amazing it feels to be having these discussions and making these decisions together as a couple.  There is no debate, just open, honest discussion and we are both coming to the same realizations.  I couldn't be happier!

Friday, October 21, 2011

(re)Defining myself

I'm finding myself daunted with ideas right now, like I'm standing at the crossroads and I need to decide which path I'm going to take.  I feel like I don't know who I am, or if I ever have.  I've always been kind of a chameleon, taking in others ideas, trying them out to see if they fit.  My parents gave my sister and I a lot of independence and never really encouraged us down any one path.  My mom wouldn't even sign us up for activities unless we specifically asked, which as a child of the 80's meant that I did bowling and roller skating lessons (not skills which I can say have really come in handy over my life).  As a teenager I played a lot of sports, but I'm not sure if it was really a passion, or if it was just something to do to pass the time.  I can't say that I miss sports at all now that they aren't a part of my daily life.  I started a lot of post secondary programs but never actually finished any of them, I just couldn't commit to anything because it didn't feel like me, but who am I?

Part of my toxic relationship with money over the years can be directly related to this quest to figure out who I am, who I want to be, what do I like.  I have never done anything half-assed.  When I decided to learn to crochet I bought every book on the subject, skeins of yarn, every crochet hook known to man - only to discover I am terrible at crocheting and found it incredibly frustrating.  Same thing when I when Nick and I decided that we were going to make fitness a priority and were going to exercise at home - we bought a professional grade recumbent bike, weights, resistance bands, work out DVDs..... that fad didn't last long, I cannot stand exercise DVDs and feel silly doing them at home.  I thought I wanted to be a scrap booker so I bought loads of paper, scissors, adhesives, and a Cricut.  I think I have finally hit that point where I have realized that who I am cannot be defined by what I buy or what I own.  Who I am has to be defined by my actions.

So this brings me to my latest interest.  Over the past few months I have poured over minimalist blogs, soaking everything up and feeling so at peace with this idea of less stuff, less time spent working, more family time, more peace, more space.  I have been watching a lot of environmental interest and sustainability documentaries on Netflix while I'm working away, and I keep nodding to myself thinking, "Yes!  Yes! THIS is what I want for my family!"  I want to declutter myself and not go back to adding to the "stuff".  I want to work hard and pay off this debt and stop the cycle of spending.  I want to make thoughtful decisions about where our money goes, how we spend our time, and what impact our decisions will have on the world around us.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Need more storage? Clear out instead!

I got it into my head last month that I wanted to do something different with the kids play room.  They're starting to get a bit older and they play differently than they used to.  The space just wasn't working for us any more.  My kids aren't really big on toys, they prefer playing games and doing crafts, and our space didn't reflect that.  In setting out to change the space I decided that I needed 2 things: a table and chair set, and a cupboard to store craft supplies.
I searched the local classifieds and managed to find a great table set within a week, and for only $50!  Awesome - used and fairly inexpensive - my plan was coming together!  The cupboard was proving more elusive though.  We made the decision that we'd probably have to buy new, but if I was laying out the money I wanted it to be perfect.  I searched every home improvement and general purpose store and finally found what I wanted at Home Depot.  But I didn't buy it.  I wanted to wait awhile and be sure that it was what I wanted.  And then yesterday I had a realization - I didn't need yet another storage cupboard, I needed to clear out my crap!
As I sat at my desk yesterday I realized that I had a cupboard to the left of me that was half empty with a disorganized mess of office supplies, and a cupboard to the right of me that was full of my own personal craft supplies that I haven't opened in probably 6 months.  Behind me sits a sewing cabinet full of projects that I intend to do, but with what time?  I spend most of my time working or with my kids and husband, not sewing.  The kids  have a closet in their play area filled with games and puzzles that is poorly organized and barely functional, and a book shelf where books are tossed and messy.  We also have 2 cupboards beside our TV full of CD's and DVD's we don't watch or listen to because we have everything we want in digital format.  So why did I want to add to all of this?  For someone who is striving for a more simple lifestyle I feel like a failure.
So out of those feelings of failure, springs inspiration!  I am giving myself 2 weeks, and in that 2 weeks I tend to clean out all of these storage spaces.  I am going to rid myself of craft and sewing projects I have no intention, desire, or time to complete.  I am going to rid myself of CD's and DVD's that we do not use that we only keep because we can.  I am going to donate puzzles and toys the kids have outgrown (I do this regularly but each time I am more ruthless than the last).  I am going to completely eliminate the bookshelf in the play area and sell it.  I am going to completely clear out the closet in the play area and convert it into a closet to store clothes waiting to be ironed, our ironing board, and steamer.  The area next to the desk in our living room is no longer going to be stuffed to the gills with the kids craft supplies - I'm not entirely sure what I will put there, I'm waffling between desk storage or my own personal craft supplies.  This should be fun!

Here is the mess we're in now.... Expect big changes!

It's not just about the money

It turns out that getting out of debt isn't really about the money for us.  Obviously you need money to get out debt, but it has less to do with that and more about creating a total lifestyle change.  If you're in debt and you suddenly receive a windfall tomorrow to pay it off, will you stay that way long term?  Likely not.  Regardless of how much money you make you won't come close to making a dent in your debt if you don't change your habits.

Looking back on the lifestyle we lead five years ago it's honestly quite laughable.  We furnished our first home with entirely new furniture, paying a whopping $4000 just on furniture for our living room.  We routinely went out for expensive dinners and movies, purchased Starbucks every morning on the way to work, and went shopping to cure boredom on the weekends.  It's no wonder the bills kept rising!  And we really weren't happy anyway.

Our lifestyle now is more about moving towards sustainable living.  I don't step foot in a mall unless I absolutely have to (in fact I loathe shopping).  If I do have to shop I go out with a plan in place to get what we need and try to buy used wherever possible.  I grocery shop with more of a purpose of what we will actually be able to eat and I try to recognize that if we run out before the end of the week we can always go back (it's better than throwing wasted food in the garbage).  Our playroom isn't over run with toys - we try to encourage our families instead to contribute money towards our children's activities that won't cause clutter in our lives.  We don't just get in the car to drive somewhere to get out of the house, instead we treat our home as a sanctuary and we enjoy being here with each other.  My peaceful time away from my kids is an hour a week where I get together with girlfriends for tea at a local coffee shop, no big dinners out or shopping excursions any more.

The little things really do make us happy.  Every time we save money or decide against a purchase I feel a victory inside because we are moving towards the life that I truly want.  Every time we figure out how to do or make something for ourselves and we don't need to buy it, I do a little cheer.  I don't want a life that is dictated by impressing other people or about how much stuff we can acquire.... I want a life that is authentic and built around our values of family and the environment.

We are far from perfect, but the less I worry about money and the more I question my decisions based on, "Does this support the lifestyle we want?" - the better we become.  Slowly but surely we're getting there!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Catching Up

This blog post has been a long time coming - I feel like I've dropped off the face of the earth for a little while. How can it possibly be that I have no blogged in over a month!  It was a needed break, I needed to centre myself and realize why we were doing this journey to becoming debt-free, and what it all meant in the grand scheme of things.

So what have I been up to?

- I've spent a lot of time budgeting and moving all of our finances over to  - I still have my handy dandy Excel spreadsheet to use as a cash flow statement though.  I like to use Excel because it gives me a chart of how much is in our account, and what things are coming out when.  It's nice to know at any given point how much money we have in our account just in case we have to squeeze in anything unexpected.

- I've been working (A LOT).  When I created our realistic budget that accommodated for things like car repairs and savings I came up with a $3,000 monthly short fall  after Nick's pay, which means that I have to commit to earning $1,500 per pay cheque.  This represents about 36 hours of work per week, which may not sound like much, but when I have to squeeze it in between caring for my kids and my home and can't just go to work, it can be difficult.  I love it though, I am so thankful for my job!

- While working I have been watching environmental documentaries on Netflix and am recommitting my family to working towards being more eco-friendly and implementing changes over time to work towards a healthier earth (and a healthier financial future).  Expect to hear much more about this in the future!

- I've been spending a lot of time with my kids.  We've been doing crafts, going to the park, shuttling them (well, Tristan) to activities, and volunteering in their classrooms.  My kids are pretty awesome.  I've realized that I would rather spend time with them than anyone else in the world.

- I've been spending time with my mom.  My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in April of this year and has undergone 6 rounds of chemo.  I am happy to report that chemo is now done!  She's not in remission, but the doctor's have moved her to Herceptin and hopefully that will keep the growth of the cancer at bay.  The doctor's prognosis at this point is 5-6 years, and we are very thankful for that!

So I'm back and hoping to get back in the routine of blogging again!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Coming up for air

Whew - I swear I will get back into my blogging routine soon!  It has been wild and crazy around here the past week with both of my boys starting school and trying to get settled into routines.

Nick also has been moved projects at work which has caused a bit of confusion around here.  His new work schedule is going to be 10 hour days, 4 days a week, so he'll get every Friday off!  It's going to be looong days though (he needs to wake up at 4:30am, yuck!)  And this project could involve a lot of overtime, which on the one hand is YAY! and on the other hand a lot of BOO!  We have to be grateful for all the income we can bring in, but it certainly is busy around here.  Nick earns a heck of a lot more than I do though, so if he's doing OT I can relax a bit on my end.

I am having a VERY difficult time keeping up any semblance of a work day.  I did not meet my $1200 target for this pay cheque, I fell about $200 short :(  Hopefully now that the craziness of the first week of school has died down that will get better.

We also came to the conclusion that Tristan really needed to be involved in more activities.  Tristan had told us that he decided he didn't want to be in Beavers, so we felt it was best to respect his decision.  He claimed it was because he was "shy" - if you know us personally, you know that this is soooo far from the truth.  Tristan is the type of child will strike up a conversation with each and every person he passes walking through the grocery store.   So after much debate, Nick and I felt we should push him out of his comfort zone a little bit, which unfortunately meant pushing our budget a bit out of our comfort zone.  We signed Tristan up for Broadway Show Choir, Beavers, and Art Classes.  They are pricey (like ouch pricey), but in the end we want was is best for our kids, and he really needs to have his time filled up in a way that I cannot do entirely on my own.  I spoke with my mother-in-law tonight and she said she would love to help out, so we'll see what comes from that.

I promise I will back tomorrow with our budget, right now I need to go have some quality time with my pillow.  Nick's brother's family is coming to visit this weekend so it's going to be busy, busy, busy!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Spending totals for August 28th to September 3rd, 2011

Having to do a bit of catch up today.  We've been enjoying an extra long Labour Day weekend as a family.  Our last hurrah before settling into the fall routine of school and preparing for winter.

I have been terrible this week about writing everything down and had to scramble to dig through my wallet to find receipts for everything.  Up to this point I have been just separating cash into different areas of my wallet, but I think I need to use actual envelopes and tuck the receipts inside so that I can keep a better record of it all.  All in all, not a bad week.  I highlighted a few things that weren't really planned.  I really need to quit taking my kids shopping with me!  It always costs me more.

August 27, 2011
$105.00 Life jackets for the kids (we realized last minute after being invited to go boating with the friends that the boys no longer had life jackets that fit.  No time to shop around and find a better price)
$109.99 Anti-virus software (Paid for 2 years upfront, I need this for work since I work remotely by computer)
$17.00 Doll dress for Brighton's birthday

August 28, 2011
No spend!

August 29, 2011
$33.96 Personal tax payment installment
$255.10 Payment to mom
$48.80 Bank fees (ouch!  overdraft interest is getting to us)
$70.57 Fuel - van
$11.54 Lutes building centre - screws for privacy screen Nick built in the yard
$12.00 Car wash

August 30, 2011
$42.44 Fuel - car

August 31, 2011
$70.92 Extra Foods - groceries

September 1, 2011
$1305.00 Mortgage payment
$2.72 Phone/internet
$161.34 Cell phone bills
$29.13 Domino's Pizza (we let Tristan choose dinner since it was his first day of school and he wanted to order pizza)

September 2, 2011
$62.99 Sump pump

September 3, 2011
$44.67 Bulk barn - groceries
$54.23 Michael's - quilting cutting mat for me, and craft supplies for the kids
$23.29 Dollarama - art supplies for the kids and some misc school supplies

Total spending for the week: $2397.70 (seems like an awful lot, but the mortgage makes up more than half of that)

Friday, September 2, 2011

A bunch of randomness

I have been a bad blogger this week!  It's been busy and I've been feeling a little bit like a chicken with my head cut off.

On the work front I've been really struggling to meet my goals and then further struggling with whether working more is the right decision.  After much debate and pros and cons list making, I've decided that instead of coming up with a number goal, I'm going to work set hours and accomplish what I can within those hours.  Since I get paid per piece of work I complete it at first seemed logical that I would go by earnings to determine targets - the problem with that is that some pieces of work take longer, and I have worked until 11pm a couple of nights to get everything done.  Nick and I sat down and worked out a schedule that hopefully will work for all of us.  Doesn't hurt to try different approaches and see what ends up being the best.

The other big thing going on this week is that Tristan started kindergarten yesterday!  He had a tour of the school on Wednesday and yesterday was the big day.  He had a blast!  When I picked him I asked him, "How was it?".... his reply?  "It. was. AWESOME!"   Gabe starts preschool next week so I hope he has the same reaction.

And on the not-good news front, my mother who is battling stage 4 breast cancer found another lump in her breast this week.  It was a big blow as her last CT scan showed that the chemo protocol she is on was helping.  She is having a mammogram right now to check everything out, so we're hoping and praying that it's not bad news.  It puts things into perspective, health and family is what truly matters.... not money.

So no meal planning or food waste to report today.  I'm not going to meal plan for the next few days until I use up everything we have on hand.  Usually if I wing it I'm more resourceful with what's in the fridge, freezer, and cupboards.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful start to September!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I am banning myself...

...from the "Extra Foods" store near our house.  Somehow every single time I go in that store I spend money I didn't intend to.  It's probably because it's where I run in quickly for a few things, and I almost always have 3 kids in tow, and it almost always seems to be close to meal times where the kids are whiny and cranky and I will give just about anything to keep them quiet.  Today the damage was workbooks for the kids and two cat toys, the other day it was bubbles and some clothes.  The other grocery store in town is only slightly further away, and their prices are slightly higher, but there are no temptation items there, just food.  And as a bonus they give the kids a free cookie which usually dissuades any other begging.
Last week Nick and I watched the documentary, "No Impact Man" on Netflix, and I've got to say, it really got me thinking!

As much as we *say* that we care about the environment and treading lightly on the earth, we're not doing a very good job of living that.  We get complacent and buy packaged snacks, we buy chemical laden beauty products, we got lazy over the winter and stopped composting - all of these things add up!

The thing is, being eco-friendly is also very frugal.  Pre-packaged convenience food and fast foods are all heavily packaged, not very healthy, and EXPENSIVE.  Leaving lights on, water running, and turning up the heat/air conditioning adds up in cost.  Driving too much racks up the cost of gas pretty quickly with the price these days.  And buying used rather than new is almost always cheaper.  So if it saves money - why aren't we all doing it?  Of course the trade-off to it being cheaper, is that it takes more TIME, something that we're all on short supply of these days.

I've really been struggling with things that take more time these days.  With the goals I've set for work I am spending around 6 hours every day working, add that to the fact that I am the primary caregiver for 3 kids, I prepare breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks every day, and I am solely responsible for meal planning, shopping, and laundry.... and yeah, time is in VERY short supply.  But something that I need to reconcile with myself is that it's not always about the money.  In this case, the positives far outweigh any negatives in terms of time spent.

With back-to-school here I think our first and biggest challenge is going to be resisting buying packaged snacks and making everything at home and using reusable containers.  The best part about making everything yourself is that you end up with ingredients with lots of possibilities!  Less packaging, more cupboard space, and more creativity.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Spending totals for August 21 to 27, 2011

Pretty good week overall!  Although I have to say it was really forced upon us as there was no money to use!

August 21/11
$75.00 Chair bought from friend
$36.41 Fuel - car

August 22/11
$87.30Life insurance $87.30
+$39.20 Gymboree store return
+ $18.88 Costco store return

August 23/11
No spend!

August 24/11
$517.60 Car payment
$7.99 Netflix

August 25/11
$211.83 Car/home insurance
$25.95 Canadian Living magazine subscription
$6.59 Nick - lunch bought at work

August 26/11
$111.97 No Frill's
$70.23 Fuel - van

August 27/11
No spend!

Total spending for the week (including debt repayment): $1092.79

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Grocery Shopping: The "I'm finally getting it together!" edition

I am super proud to report that this was a good week!  I had a fun and frugal day with the kids yesterday.  I spent the morning working while Nick took the kids for a bike ride.  We then had lunch and headed out for the afternoon - I was a bit scared because I'm trying to get the kids to give up naps in an attempt to get them to sleep better at night.  We went to the next town, had some fun at the playground, then walked along the gorgeous river pathway to the library.  I've never been to this library before and it was awesome!  The kids section is so well laid out with bins of books organized with pictures so the kids could easily select their own, and sections devoted to transportation, dinosaurs, and just about any category you could think of..  They loved it!
We then walked back to the car and headed out to do our shopping.  The kids were a bit rowdy at the grocery store, but we got everything on our list and I managed to get them to stop asking for things ever 2 seconds... it was a good day!

Here's the loot!

No Frill's

No Name soda crackers $2.29
President's Choice coffee $13.99
Real Fruit gummies $1.00 (treat for the boys back to school snacks)
No Name canned fruit cocktail x2 $2.00
No Name pear halves $1.00
No Name penne $1.00
President's Choice butter chicken sauce $3.79
Courtis tahini $6.49 (this should last a good 6 months for making homemade hummus)
Corn flakes x2 $2.00
Gold fish x2 $4.00

Firecracker popsicles $3.49

2% milk $4.53 (+$0.31 deposit)
Table cream $3.34 (+$0.11 deposit)
Whipping cream $2.99 (+$0.11 deposit) (for making homemade scones)
No name old cheddar cheese $7.99
Astro balkan style yogurt $2.49 (to make homemade naan, also going to use as a starter to make our own yogurt)
Cheese strings $2.00
Silani havarti cheese slices $2.00
Babybel cheese $4.37 (less $1.00 coupon)

Frozen raw shrimp x2 $6.00
Ham Shank $7.19
Whole chicken $6.02
Pork back ribs $9.72

No name sourdough english muffins x2 $2.00

Dole coleslaw $1.50 (works out better than buying the ingredients individually since we won't use a whole cabbage)
Celery $1.97
Asparagus $2.72
Green onions $0.49
Strawberries $2.00
D'anjou pears $3.85
Green peppers (4 ct) $1.99
Yellow onions $1.99
Garlic $0.88
Nectarines $2.79

Subtotal: $121.59
GST: $0.22
Less Superbucks $9.62 (Canadians - stay tuned, I'm going to post about why you should get be using PC)
Grand Total: $111.97


Bananas $1.69
Jazz apples $6.49
Romaine lettuce $3.99
Cucumbers $3.49
Watermelon $5.99
Tomatoes $4.99

Baby dill pickles $6.89
Canola oil $6.49

Kitty litter $7.99
Flowers $9.99
Roses $17.99

Subtotal: $75.99
GST: $1.80
Grand Total: $77.79

Costco was actually FREE though because we are executive members and received our rewards cheque this week which was $102.64.  I still have $24.85 to use the next time we are at Costco.

So total grocery outlay for the week, just $111.97.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Food Waste and Meal Planning

I'm feeling very organized and on the ball today!  Could have something to do with the fact that I actually had a night off last night, and none of my kids woke up during the night (which is nothing short of a miracle around here).

We failed miserably with the food waste this week.  No pictures as I just tossed stuff throughout the week as I found it, but we had some fresh parsley and cilantro, some small amounts of leftovers, a bag of bagels that I pulled out of the freezer that just didn't taste quite right, and some strawberries that went bad WAY too quickly.

This will be a MUCH better week I'm sure.

Our meal plan this week is pretty basic.  I'm mainly working with what's on hand with the addition of some fresh produce and dairy.  Tonight's meal is a bit more elaborate since Nick and I are doing at-home date night.

Butter chicken
Curried chickpeas
Beef vindaloo
Basmati rice

Salmon croquettes
Lemon pepper rice

Parmesan chicken
Buttered penne
Green salad

Chow mein

Red beans & rice
Cucumber salad

Penne w/ vodka sauce and shrimp
Caesar salad

Vegetable soup
Cheese paninis

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Live Like No One Else

I made the stark realization last night that I am not living the life that I want to.  I feel like a workaholic lately, taking time away from family, myself, and my home to plug away and earn more money - all so that we can repay past mistakes.  And those past mistakes?  Not even anything that was remotely worth the sacrifices we are having to make now.

While I could make myself miserable over this, I'm not going to.  We spent the money, we used the credit, now we've got to do the time.  It makes me more resolute in my resolve to get out of this mess though.  No more sneaking in magazines to the grocery cart, giving into the temptation to buy convenience foods, or purchase clothing or toys we don't need.  Those are not the things that matter to me.

If I look at what I really value it is time with my friends and family, the ability to have guests over, getting out into nature, and travelling.  Sadly I think early in our marriage Nick and I didn't really have the time and money to do what we really loved doing (travel), so we tried to fill that void with stuff.  You don't even realize you're doing it until it's too late, and no matter how much stuff you have that void just gets bigger and bigger.

I have some pretty big dreams for my family - I want to go back to school to become a midwife, I want Nick to have the freedom to quit his job and find what he is passionate about, I want to be able to take my children on vacations and visit our family in England (whom we haven't seen in 6 years!).  Most of all, I just want freedom from these chains of debt that are holding us down.

I'm moving forward with a new resolve.  The debt is temporary, but the changes we make to our lifestyle now are going to have a lasting impact for years to come.  There is no going back, only forward.

As Dave Ramsey says, "If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else."

Food for Thought Today