Sunday, January 14, 2018

Frugal Accomplishments on the Road to Financial Fitness

Admittedly, we have not had many frugal accomplishments as of yet.  At least not enough to counteract the hemorrhaging of funds thus far.  I have got to develop some sort of plan to get the spending under control but it is proving to be difficult due to things not entirely within my control.  Sigh.
So, I will seek to control what I have control over.
By jotting down the successes that I have in that area I hope to find encouragement.
So, here we go small and simple successes and frugal accomplishments that will hopefully help get us back on the road to financial fitness and keep us there.

-We began this new year with celebrations.  Bishop turned 17 and he shares a birthday with a cousin and that cousin's daughter, who turned one.  The moment the wee one was born we all committed to having a birthday buddy birthday party.  The year sped by way too quickly, the birthdays were upon us and we had to plan a party quickly.  We decided on a theme and went at the planning and preparation.  Not every decision made was the most frugal but many, many were and I will share some of those now.  The decorations were created with things that we had on hand, ribbon that was discounted by 50% and floral picks that were in the Christmas section at 66-80% discount.  Most of the food that I provided was stuff that I typically have on hand with fun little twists added to it.  I was tempted to buy food coloring (to add some of those fun twists) that matched the cakes colors precisely but thought that I might have some on hand.  I resisted the temptation and found gel food coloring at home that worked perfectly.  I also resisted the temptation to buy sprinkles that were on clearance and were "perfect" and I found the truly "perfect" ones at home.  I also had candy melts at home that I found useful.  I did purchase some fun colored candy melts to use but will also use them to make Easter treats.  Other things that I purchased will also be used for Easter.  I will repurpose the decorations but add dangling Easter eggs.  I bought plastic tablecloths in orange so that I could use them in the future for football parties (my favorite team and Bishop's favorite team both have orange in their team colors).  The ribbon I will use for gift wrapping.

-For my nieces birthday gift I gave her three beautiful dish towels that I bought with Kohl's cash a couple of years back hoping to embellish them and gift them.  I chose three that, although not embellished, match her home well.  I also included a pan that I owned that she had been eyeing.  This is a well-loved pan, used frequently, but the look in her eyes when she first saw it made it easy to give it up.  I wrapped it in a robe box that I bought a couple years back at a post Christmas sale.  It probably cost me a quarter.  I finished the package with some ribbon that I had bought while 50% off.   I gifted the remaining roll of ribbon to Sarah as well as it was something she eyed while we were in Hobby Lobby together.

-Speaking of gifts, Christmas gift giving was a mixed bag.  We may have over spent on our kids but I think I did really well on the extended family.  I don't do Christmas cards and I don't always do gifts.  Sometimes, though, things just fall in line.  In the past I have had the goal of sorting through every nook and cranny of my home and parting with some of my stuff.  While doing this I would set aside some nice things that might could be used as gifts.  Oftentimes, these items were kits that the kids and I never got to and they have since outgrown or something similar.  I went through my stash and had something for everybody.  I gave the Bible origami that I had intended on doing several winters ago to one grandniece, she loved it and started in on it immediately.  Many years ago I gave each of the boys nice slingshots and somehow I purchased an extra one.  I gifted it to a grandnephew, he loved it and has been using it to shoot grapes at targets. :)  Maceo redid his room and opted to get rid of a metal sign that says "Theatre" so we gifted it to the grandnephew that does theatre and he loved it.  I gave my nieces plates that say "Jesus is the Reason" that I have used in the past but were ready to part with.  I then had them fill up the plates with goodies from my goodie table.  I then wrapped it with Christmas saran wrap that I had purchased years ago at a post Christmas sale.  They loved it as they decided that they wouldn't have to stress over baking cookies for Santa now.There are more but this gives you an idea of what I did and how successful it was.

-I wrapped each of those gifts in brown craft paper, used the tags that I made some years back and accented them with ribbon and bows that I already had on hand.  The wrapping was even considered a success.  People actually commented on how pretty the wrapping was.  This confirms for me that this is how I will wrap presents in the future.  I have had this idea for quite some time but have needed to work my way through the stash of paper that I had.  My thought is that brown craft paper is cheap and versatile.  It can be used for every occasion.  It can be stamped or painted or just accented with simple things.  This is what I will be doing from now on and this is why I felt it was ok to buy an assortment of ribbon for the birthday party.  It can be repurposed as gift wrapping.  I am also saving all brown paper bags to use as wrapping.  If it is a nice handled bag I intend on collaging or painting over the store logo to create a custom gift bag.

-I have done a similar simplifying of my card giving.  I have downsized my card collection, even getting rid of most of the vintagey type ones, and am only giving out cards that have been made by family.  I have cards that are prints of my step mothers paintings, she gifted these to me.  I also have cards that I have adhered photos that the boys or I took.  I purchased brown tag paper type cards from Hobby Lobby with 40 or 50% off then glued the pictures on.  All of these cards are blank so they work for every occasion based on what I write on the inside.  I have been using these exclusively for months now, even for Bishop's birthday card, and it is cheaper and less stressful.

-Walgreens had sparkling grape juice discounted to a third of what I typically pay so I purchased all that I would need for Easter, Thanksgiving and next Christmas.  For what I would typically spend on beverage for one holiday I was able to purchase what I needed for the year.  (This saved me about $7.50)

-I like to plan ahead.  Just as I know that we will use ate least six bottles of sparkling beverage per year for the holidays, I know that we will use at least one yellow cake mix and one white cake mix for birthdays throughout the year.  In November or December I found cake mixes  on sale for $1 so I picked up several and had a yellow cake mix ready for Bishop's birthday.  To this I added a homemade frosting and candles in my stash.  (I just looked up what bakers charge for a two layer birthday cake and am a bit stunned.  Now, I will admit that a cake purchased from a baker would look a lot nicer than this cake but my insistence on baking the family birthday cakes probably saves us about $30 for each cake).

-Bishop's boy scout troop had a lock in.  We took treats using what we had on hand, although I did buy two bottles of soda.  I made chocolate chip cookies. chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate chip dip with graham crackers and a meat, cheese, cracker tray.  I helped create quite a smorgasbord using, primarily, things leftover from all the recent celebrations.  The smorgasbord was so impressive with every one else's offerings added to it that the boys couldn't finish all that we had provided and some of the treats returned to their respective homes, which my family loved.  (Although I used up some resources at home I saved myself a trip to the grocery store, the risk of impulse buys and at least $10 in purchases of chips, etc.)

-I needed toothpaste and I need to begin to replenish by pantry so I made a quick trip to CVS on Saturday evening before the sales change with $6 in my pocket to see what I could get.  I got a tube of toothpaste for $1, 14 elastic hair bands for Bishop for $1.25 and two gallons of water because Bishop requested some and Maceo will need it for rehearsal on Sunday.  I spent $4.50 and kept $1.50 in my pocket.  The hair bands I will add to my stash.  If Bishop doesn't NEED them before Easter they will go in his basket.  I think this is a good start and I will follow it up with taking a sneak peak at the the coupon inserts and sales papers.  (My true savings on these items are $5.)

-I redeemed 2200 swagbucks for a $25 Amazon gift card.

-I worked 1.75 hours for our community theatre in exchange I don't pay for Maceo's troupe and additional training.  (This has an approximate weekly value of $34).

52 Week Challenge:  I cleaned out a purse that I stopped using nearly a year ago and found a lot of cashola; $47 to be exact.  So I deposit that $47 into my 52 Week Challenge account for the entire four weeks of January.  This fulfills the $25, $12, $6 and $4.

Learning Jar O' Change:  I began the month with $57.68 in my learning jar.  To that I add $6.46 for a new balance of $64.14.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Looking to the Year Ahead

This year is likely going to be very busy, very full.
I anticipate making a trip to New Mexico, Vegas and L.A.
Maceo will be graduating high school and submitting his college applications which could take him and I to the U.K.
Bishop will begin his senior year of high school.
I hope to get Bishop to some pottery related workshops with master potters.
Bishop needs to complete the requirements for Eagle Scout as he will age out of scouts in just under a year now.
All of this while still adjusting to all the changes in our family; it's really changes heaped upon more changes.
But, in addition to completing the things above, I need to set more goals; I need to give myself structure.  So, let me give this a go.

This one is really tricky.  We are still trying to figure out what our income will be and I have found that having my husband home complicates the finances.  Apparently he and I have very different spending habits, opinions about money and it is difficult to  come to an agreement.  We have kept the finances separated to a degree throughout the years as we typically lived separately but not anymore.  Now I have to figure out how to give him some autonomy without breaking the bank.  Already this month has been awful.  Money is just disappearing.  I am going to develop some strategies and some goals but they will be personal.
-I will resume my frugal accomplishments post.  I find it helpful to be accountable in this way.
-I will do my own version of the 52 Week Savings Challenge.  The $1400 tucked away in savings will be helpful towards the end of what is likely to be a pricy year.
-I will return to putting all my change into a jar.  This time I will not be saving it for Christmas but for learning experiences.  It will be the Learning Jar O' Change.
-I will work on refining and simplifying my gift giving.  I will seek to use what I have on hand and will make more of my gifts.
-I will return to building my pantry.
-I will work Swagbucks and Bing.
-I think I will participate in The Vicky Challenge.
-I will list all of my expenses and balances on debt so as to be brutally honest about where things stand.  And I will continue to try to communicate this to my husband.
-It is my desire to pay off the last credit card and student loan this year.
-I will help Bishop parlay his talents into an income stream.

-I will once again attempt to go through every nook and cranny of my property seeking to get rid of even more.
-I will FINALLY sell off my nice things that I have opted to release.
-I will repaint the basement.
-I will trim the tree line and stock up some wood for next winter.

-Several years ago I stopped going to the gym.  It was a deliberate well thought out decision.  It was necessary.  Now I believe it is time to resume; now it is necessary.  So my new deliberate well thought out decision will be to begin routinely attending the gym no later than February 5.
-I also commit to cutting my hair, which has not been cut (other than by me just piddling around) for years and years.  I may also add a little bit of color but this is contingent on how I feel after the hair cut and how the bank account is feeling.  I just feel the need for something a little different, I suppose.
-I will work on my memory preservation projects.
-I will work on the homeschool related projects that I have in mind; projects that will help me stay plugged in with homeschool community while possibly opening up avenues for income.

This is a start at least.
It gives me some direction, some focus.
Let's see what I can do.

Reflecting on the Year Past

A new year is upon us and it only seems right to reflect on the previous year and think a bit about what this next year might hold.
Although it has looked very different each year I do strive to do this every year (2017, 2016, 2014).
It has been a challenging year filled with many ups and many downs.

We have celebrated birthdays!  Bishop turned 16 and we celebrated with a fun family Mickey Mouse party - "Hot Dog".  Keegan was home for her 27th birthday and we celebrated with a Beauty and the Beast theme (we watched the movie while she was home, as well).  Christian turned 28.  I turned the big 5-0!  Keegan planned a surprise party for my birthday and, boy, was it a SURPRISE!  We were blessed to get to celebrate my Dad's birthday with him and then my Mom's birthday with her.
We welcomed a new family and yet another birthday buddy for Bishop!
Maceo was Gaston in SLT's production of Beauty and the Beast Jr.
Maceo alternated roles of Horton and the Mayor for the touring company's production of Seussical Jr.  He also did a touring company show with the local opera.
Christian began the year home with us but returned to Korea to continue his studies.  He later returned home with theses to finish to receive his degrees.
We did mold remediation in the basement.
Maceo also performed in Jesus Christ Superstar and The Addams Family.
Bishop continued with his culinary internship and it has now become a paid position.
Bishop has made enormous strides in regards to his pottery and has expanded his art making repetoire by taking a furnace glass blowing class and a jewelry making class.  He also took a glass bead making class and went back for studio time several times.
We had a lot of family visits.  My dad came out twice this year. Keegan also came out twice this year.  My mom came out for a month-long visit, my little sister stopped by and, for the first time ever, my brother came to town.  AMAZING!
Maceo went to prom with Ruby then later began dating Brenna.
 Maceo continued with ppt classes, troupe and teen players.  It was really the year of improv, though.  He excelled at the improv of teen players and acting class.  One of our city's improv teams was anxiously awaiting him turning 18 so that he could join their team.  He actually joined a month or two before his birthday.  He ended the year being a member of three different teams.  He also takes advanced improv classes and is forming his own team.
Maceo and Bishop went to a Chance the Rapper concert.
Maceo began his senior year of high school and Bishop began his junior year.
Bishop and I had a close friend die.
Maceo won a Franny!
Maceo directed Comedy Tonight, a comedy sketch show.
Maceo performed in Rocky Horror Show at a theatre he had never worked with before.
Maceo was cast in his first bit of Shakespeare.
Maceo, Bishop and I went to Crystal Bridges Museum.
Maceo had a lot of medical tests.  Sigh.
Bishop called color guard for several of his friends Eagle Scout Court of Honors and we managed to resuscitate the troop.
Maceo was hired by a theatre group in the Kansas City area to teach and perform in a summer program.  He was Jesus in Godspell!
Keegan moved to a new apartment.  She survived all the crazy fires of the year, including the one that threatened Sherman Oaks.
She was in several productions, directed a show and was part of the ensemble that won Best Ensemble at the Valley Theatre Awards.
Christian started a non-profit organization, Ozark International Outreach.
Herb wrestled with medical issues.  He even had a cardioversion and a sever case of uveitis that left him unable to see for quite some time.
We lost the blower to our a/c and furnace right before the hottest weekend of the summer and being unable to repair it until after Christmas we experienced a nippy Christmas day.
We lost power just before the coldest weekend of years.  We got it repaired just in time but then had our vehicle break down leaving us on the side of the road on that coldest evening.  Sigh.
Herb retired from the military!!!!!!!

It has been a year full of family and transition.
There were many great, great, great things
and then many things that have left me depleted.
Which leaves me feeling as though the beginning of this year is not flowing as readily for me.
However, it might be argued that the flow left me some time ago.
As I looked over the previous years blog posts I found that I stopped posting financial accomplishments at the beginning of June.  Also, last year I set some other goals which I lost all focus on by the middle of the year.
Let's see if I can focus now.  Let's see if I can make my way through the fog to find a vision of the life that I want to lead and set some goals that will enable me to move closer to that life.
It is time to look to the year ahead, to be deliberate.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Birthday Buddy Birthday Bash

WOW!  What a celebration!
Bishop shares his birthday with a cousin and her daughter.
Can you believe it - three birthdays in one day?
We had a birthday buddy birthday party for the three of them.
It was wonderful!
The party decorations and such were based on Dr. Seuss' "Oh The Place You'll Go."
It seemed like a suitable theme for a birthday party for a one year old, seventeen year old and thirty-five year old alike.
Take a look...
The food tables, aren't they fun?!?

Each birthday buddy had their own gift table with a copy of the book for guests to sign.
Sarah's table.

Bishop's table.

Ollie's table.

Isn't this clock amazing?

Scrapbook pages showing the first birthday buddy birthday parties.

A closeup of part of Sarah's table.  So sweet.
Here is more of a glimpse of the decorations and the details.

Isn't it all so wonderfully bright and colorful?

We also had a photo booth.
Here is little Ollie flying in the "hot air balloon."
What places will she go?!?

A glimpse at what it takes to do a photo shoot with a one year old.

I love these sweet interactions between Bishop and his wee cousin, Ollie.

I love this photo.  Bishop is holding a bear that was gifted to Sarah at the first birthday buddy birthday party.  Bishop was gifted an identical one.  As he was only one at the time he was given it his bear is not quite in as good of shape as hers.
There were birthday wishes made!

Bishop had a sherbet cake.  Isn't it lovely?

This cake looks lovely as well!!

Maceo and Brenna were guests at the party and they had a bit of fun with the photo booth.

Such silliness!


Well wishes were given and received.
Bishop picked out this sweet stuffed donkey and matching book for Ollie.
She seems to like it!
Bishop loved this card given to him by Aunt Roxie.
It's one of those musical cards.  It had a drum set that you could actually play.
Such fun!
We gave Sarah little gifts that included a spool of ribbon that she had eyed at a craft store...
...and a oddly shaped pan of mine that she had also eyed.
Here are a few more glimpses of the party fun.

It is so wonderful to celebrate the births of these extraordinary people.
What a delightful birthday buddy birthday bash!