Monthly Archives: October 2013

Slow and Steady – Financial Goals Update


It seems like it was just a handful of weeks ago that I wrote ‘What’s All The Saving For, Anyway?’ outlining our financial goals for 2013.  Much of the time our budgeting process seems rather uneventful – we’re trying to save each week so we can build money to put towards our Roth IRAs, or Christmas, or new tires.   A little here, a little there.

I thought it was time to revisit the financial goals I outlined in spring.

Goal 1: Increase cash savings by 30% by end of 2013 – Done.  We hit the 30% increase and kept right on going.  We anticipate replacing our siding between winter and spring sometime, and continue to build cash to pay for it.  We would like to be able to pay for the siding and maintain a cushion sufficient to prevent us from having to borrow again.

Goal 2: Fund Roth IRAs to the maximum, if possible – We are 63% of the way to completing this goal.  We have until March 2014 to make contributions, so we may just be able to do this.  We will continue to assess the number of federal furlough days coming in 2014 and make contributions as we get a better picture of what to expect in unpaid days next year.

For us, having a written budget that we look at together a minimum of once a week is the key to making progress on our goals.    I could live without Facebook and Pinterest, but life without a spreadsheet program would be really complicated, and require a much cleaner desk!  If you are new to budgeting “on paper, on purpose” you might want to check out some of Dave Ramsey’s free PDFs.

Menu Plan Monday – October 28

Pumpkin Family

I have a couple of Halloween-inspired meals planned this week.  Today is our Trick or Treat day and I am hoping my daughter scores a few Baby Ruth bars for me!  Mmmmm.

PumpkinPancakesMonday –  Pumpkin Pancakes and Sausage… See linked recipe and read the comments section if you are looking for advice on taking this recipe Gluten-Free!  Thanks to reader ‘Jen’!

Tuesday – SCARY Meal… Mummy Dogs (see Pinterest for inspiration), Tombstones (chips or waffle fries) and blood in goblet (cranberry juice).

Wednesday – Kid haircut night, dining out

Thursday – Tuna Salad, Deviled Eggs, Arugula Salad

Friday – Hummus Soup and Naan

For more menu inspirations, head on over to!

Teaching Kids about Money – Vacation!

It's going to be hard to top our trip to Santa Fe...

It’s going to be hard to top our trip to Santa Fe…

I admit it… we are usually already discussing our next vacation on the way home from a vacation.  This fall when I returned to work we found a new way to involve our daughter, age 8, in our budget process.  We decided to have her be able to observe the saving process for our next vacation.

We use the money I earn from part-time work to fund various “wants” and my husband’s check does all the heavy lifting… insurance, retirement and college savings, taxes.   Grown-up stuff! When I get paid, we now convene the family around the glow of the MacBook and fire up our spreadsheet.  How much did mom earn?  How much of that can we deposit into the vacation fund?  It has been a great, simple way to see the process of making a plan for our money.

We stumbled into another teachable moment regarding money as a result.  My daughter was interested in an after school art class ($125.00 plus additional fees for only 5 one-hour sessions)!  Normally we budget way ahead for any special classes she might take in summer.  This one sprang up as a surprise.  We told her she could take the class, but that the next deposit to the vacation fund was going to be a lot LOT smaller.  She decided it wasn’t worth it.  Had the class been $40.00, I would have just written the check and carried on, but given the expense, it was the absolute truth that enrolling in the class would mean little to put towards our vacation fund in that pay period.

We don’t know where our next vacation will be just yet.  Usually we start planning in January after the holiday excitement fades and there is still a lot of winter to roll through.   The planning and imagining is all part of the fun!

Menu Plan, Missing in Action?

Happy Tuesday!  I missed Menu Plan Monday yesterday as we had a cable & internet outage, but you can bet that I am working a menu plan, once again mainly based on items in the pantry and freezer.  We have:

  • Broccoli, Kale and Cheddar soup
  • Make Your Own French Bread Pizza and arugula salad
  • Shrimp and Twice Baked Potatoes
  • Spaghetti
  • Breakfast for dinner

I ran a Quicken report on grocery spending for the month of September and we averaged 85.00 a week.  This has been a pretty consistent amount for us since I started writing a menu plan based partially on what is available at home.  I like to check the numbers every month so I can be sure my impression of how much we are spending is correct.

I feel I am having “emergency preparedness” week this week.  Today at work we held our first lockdown and evacuation drill (to prepare for any type of gun/shooter incident).  One colleague commented during training, “This is just all way more than we need to know…”  but knowledge and planning is power, always.  Speaking of crises, we received my husband’s first check since the government shutdown and it was 50% less than usual.  Are you prepared for a sudden drop in income?  What baby steps could you be taking now to make things more secure in the event of a financial emergency?  Finally, I read the ‘Disaster Preparedness’ post by CrazyNoiia.  This is a season where some face hurricanes, and others have snow storms on the horizon.  Are you ready?


Here Comes Santa Claus . . .

I’ve been missing a bit this week from blog-land.  Would you believe I have been preparing for Christmas?  Our family Christmas celebration is in 2 months at our home.  The early parts of December are filled with fun family times and I want to be able to enjoy them and not be messing around looking for Scotch-tape and a gift for the mail carrier.  Last year I got so busy that I barely made any Christmas cookies, which is something I truly love to do.  I hope to do better this year.

English: Christmas cookies.

The best resource I know for preparing for the holidays is Flylady’s Holiday Control Journal.  It is completely free and you can start it using whatever timeline you have until your winter celebration.   Each day you can take a small action towards preparing for your holiday, for example I checked my supplies and I need tape, ribbon, and possibly one roll of wrapping paper this year.  Another day I looked through our summer vacation pictures while enjoying a cup of coffee and marked some for possible use in a card.

Despite the continuing federal government shutdown, we had a budget surplus this week so I bought one gift card to stash for gift-giving.   I will do this periodically, budget permitting, and the rest of our gifts will come out of our budget category for Christmas gifts.

All this thinking about Christmas made me check my daughter’s winter coat.  It was a size 6x!  More appropriate for a 1st grader than a 3rd grader!  We ordered a new one this weekend (money in the budget set aside for winter kid clothing) and were able to partially pay for her new coat with some of the money in our Paypal account from my Ebay selling binge in August.

Now I ought to make sure we don’t forget to get a Halloween pumpkin with all this Christmas planning afoot!

Menu Plan Monday – Oct 7

vegiscabbage-graphicsfairy009This week in light of the federal government shutdown I am shopping my pantry and freezer for our meal plan.  I think I have almost everything I need except fruits and vegetables for the week.

Monday – Pea Soup and Grilled Cheese

Tuesday – Sloppy Joes  … the last time I made them I froze half of the meat so this is a super easy meal

Wednesday –  Dine out.  Still using that $ 50.00 gift certificate I won to the sub shop, plus Wednesday is double stamp day so we are earning free subs at the same time!

Thursday – Hot dogs and macaroni.

Friday –  Make your own French bread pizza

More menu planning inspiration can be had at!

What I Did This Week to Save Money – Oct 5

Well, it has been an interesting week, to be sure.  My 8 year old’s comment on the Federal Shutdown: “Do they even REALIZE what they are doing to the American people?!” Can I get an ‘Amen?’

So, with questions about when my husband will be paid, and for which days, we did the following this week:

  • Daughter brought home the catalog for the Scholastic book sale at school.  Had her mark some titles she was interested in and I requested them from the library.  When I wish to do something charitable for the school I prefer to make a tax-deductible donation rather than participate in a fundraiser.  The books should be in at the library even before the sale starts.
  • Husband used his furlough day to get a free haircut at a new SportClips place in our neighborhood.  He had a good experience and liked the cut as much or better than his usual higher-priced stylist.
  • Kid birthday party this weekend… I tapped my reserve of American Girl gifts I bought at the crazy American Girl Warehouse sale.
  • We are entertaining during an NFL (football) game tomorrow, and I worked out a menu that takes advantage of some ingredients we already have on hand.  I am planning a quesadilla bar, Pioneer Woman’s restaurant-style salsa, and a Halloween-ish cake.

Other than that, we are relaxing at home – economical too!

How was your week?

Strange Times for the Savers

Here we are on Day 2 of the federal government shutdown.  Honestly, I thought that the shutdown would last a day and life would be back to business as usual.  It looks like that won’t be the case and there could be several weeks yet to come.

Right now my husband is classed as “essential” and is at work.  He will be paid… eventually.  His next check will not include any earnings from October 1 on, but will have all the usual deductions so that will be a small check to be sure.  At the end of the week he will begin to rotate in and out of work so his colleague with the most similar background can have an opportunity to earn some money to also be paid eventually.

The most stunning thing to me is that we have come upon a situation where we may need to rely on the financial position we have been working to create for the past 10 years or so.  No mortgage, no car payment, no other loans.  We need cash flow for daily living expenses, not debt payment.  We have money saved and can meet daily living expenses this way rather than putting it on a credit card.

The other thought I keep going back to is that while we have worked super hard to be in a good financial position, there are many people who have other life issues that make it hard to get to a spot of such solid footing.  Single parents, people dealing with mental illness, people supporting elderly family members, and those who have entry-level jobs would be hard pressed to weather a lengthy furlough.  We are lucky that we don’t have these kinds of financial barriers and we are very grateful we heard about Dave Ramsey and acted on his plan.

I hope I will be back with you in a of couple days saying, “It’s all good – back to work and back to getting paid.”   Till then….