Wednesday, June 2, 2010

We're moving!

I have been MIA for almost a month now. I feel like every blog I write starts out this way. David's accident took up a lot of my time, but he's almost back to normal now. He has an appointment today to get his cast cut off and more x-rays taken. We're praying everything is healing nicely and he can just use a brace for the next month. But the main reason I've been gone is that I've been doing lots of research. About 3 weeks ago David got his new orders. We're moving to....OKINAWA, JAPAN for 3 years.

I know! I was just as shocked. I cried for a full 24 hours because I was so stunned and overwhelmed by the news. This wasn't something we'd ever talked about because we never thought we'd have to go there. But now, after 3 weeks of researching and prayer I am excited and ready to go! The thing that still makes me a little leery is having to behind our dog, Bear, at least for a little while. He'll stay with my parents until we're settled and have a house he'll be able to stay in. The military will provide our house and furniture (we'll be taking our bed, sofa and a couple decorations but not much else). They will also store our truck so that it will be in good working condition when we get back. The hardest part will be leaving our families, but they understand and we'll be able to talk often. We can also get discounted tickets to fly home, so it won't be too bad.

What does this mean for us financially? It's going to be such a blessing! I was on the fence about even accepting the orders to Japan, until we crunched the numbers. With the extra entitlements of living overseas, plus the discount in auto insurance and the fact that I can use expired coupons, we have come up with several goals. The first one being PAYING OFF THE TRUCK within the first 18 months! I can not tell you how excited I am about the idea of coming in 3 years to a paid off truck with only 50k miles on it.

We still have a lot of questions and concerns about the move, but we're excited about the journey!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hello Murphy. We've been expecting you.

This is my husband David, and yes, he's holding a set a training wheels.

Thursday morning, a little before 7am, I got a call that I'd hoped I would never get. David had been in an accident on his motorcycle on his way to work. It was a pretty nasty crash, and he'd been taken to the emergency room. When you think of motorcycle wrecks, you think of the absolute worst. I was so relieved when I got to the ER and found that he only suffered a broken hand, sprain ankle, bruised ribs and some road rash. It could have been so much worse.

In July of 2008, when we started our Total Money Makeover (by Dave Ramsey, of course) we started expecting "Murphy" to make a visit. You know-everything that can go wrong, will go wrong! But it never happened. In fact, our journey to be credit card debt free was almost easy. Since then we've moved on and are working on the emergency fund. But it feels like we just got the wind knocked out of us. Luckily, the bike was paid for and with David being a Marine all his health care is paid for and he won't be losing any income. But we didn't have full coverage on his bike, and insurance isn't going to pay for it. He's going to sell it for parts and try to recover some cash to add to savings for a new bike.
But it made me realize something I might not have other wise-that we have become complacent in our financial journey. We worked so hard to get the credit card paid off, and it felt so good to accomplish that. But it seems like we've really lost focus on building our savings. Just because we don't have any credit card debt does not mean we are out of the woods and can "live like no one else", we are SO not there yet. We've started to become lazy in our goals and loose with the budget. And that's a nasty combination. But I am re-motivated now and ready to build up that emergency fund, but Murphy finally showed up for a visit and I don't like him.
**By the way, David's co-workers brought him those training wheels, flowers and balloons so he doesn't have any more accidents. Isn't that the funniest thing ever!?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18-24 Menu

Today has been a lazy day at our house, and I finally got the time to blog! I don't even think I made one entry in the month of March. Between 2 visits home and David's trip out of the country, then problems with both of our laptop chargers, it was one crazy month! But I am back, the laptops are fixed and we should be getting back to our routines this week. So here's the menu:

Sunday: Homemade Pizza
Monday: Enchiladas
Tuesday: Meatball Subs
Wednesday: French Toast, Sausage
Thursday: I'm having some friends over for brunch, so we'll have leftovers or sandwiches for supper.
Friday: Spaghetti and Green Beans
Saturday: Neighborhood Picnic, potluck style. I'm thinking a corn salad!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Emergency Savings are crutial!

I haven't posted anything this month because I've been busy and out of town. At the beginning of the month, my Grandpa passed away. We were not ready for it, but it was not completely unexpected. He would be 80 next week and had several health problems, but we thought we had more time. We're all heartbroken of the fact that he is gone, but through our faith we know that he is with our grandma, who he loved and missed dearly and is at peace. That being said, we had to make an emergency trip home for a week, and my brother had to fly in from Virginia. We were definitely not preparing to spend that extra money to travel back to Florida and luckily we pulled from our entertainment and blow money to cover most of the trip and the rest came from Travel Savings. We were able to make the entire trip home without even having to touch the emergency savings-but it was there if we needed it! That's a wonderful, peaceful feeling. It's amazing what a difference a year makes! If this had happened a year ago we would have, without a doubt, put the money on our credit card. And why? David brings in the exact same income he did last year. But because we thought it was "normal" to have credit card debt and keep up with the Jones (Who are BROKE, by the way!) we put stuff we didn't need on debit cards, and when we had real needs those had to go on the credit card. Then a year ago we decided, "Hey? Let's try buying what we NEED first with cash, SAVING enough for our future needs and goals, and using the rest of the cash on fun?" And it has changed our lives. Do bad things still happen? Of course they do, case in point this month. But it seems like Murphy isn't nearly as scary when he has to face an Emergency Fund!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

March Goals

In like a lion, out like a lamb. I'm hoping for more of the lamb and less of the lion around here. I feel like March will be a great month for us, we'll pay off the last of the Bike loan, and it will be all savings from there. We are expecting news on David's orders sometime this month, and then we should have a good idea of when we'll be moving.

March Goals:

  1. Pay off remaining $170 of Bike Loan.
  2. Add $200 to savings.
  3. Cut back on dining out.
  4. Try to use less gas, and makes fewer trips to the store.
  5. Finish Spring Cleaning.

I'll check back in soon!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

2/25-2/28: Living Frugally

I'm just now catching up on the last couple days. I have to say, we've been doing very well at not spending much money this weekend. A lot of that has to do with the fact that we've gotten serious about house shopping, and it really makes you think before spending money when you're saving for something so important.

Thursday was easy, it rained so David drove my truck into work and I didn't leave the house. He did spend $12 on lunch with co-workers but it came out of this $30 weekly blow money, so that's not a big deal.

Friday was payday and I went out to get the envelope cash and gas in the truck. My bank gives rebates for ATM fees, so there was no waste there. Before I got gas I checked so find out where the cheapest place in town was. It happened to be Walmart, which is great because it's only about a mile away and I used a Walmart Shopping Card to save $0.03 a gallon. I bought 16 gallons, saving me a total of $0.48. Doesn't sound like too much, but it was something I was going to buy anyway, might as well save a couple quarters doing it, right? Next stop was the vet to buy Bear's hear worm prevention. It was $55, but it came out of his envelope, so again it there was no real effect on the monthly cash flow. Pet care can be expensive but it's SO worth it to keep your pet happy and healthy. A little money spent to protect your pet now can save so much more expense and heartache later on. I cannot stress this enough!

Which brings me to Saturday. Weekends are always, ALWAYS a "budget buster" for us. I should say for me though, because most money spent is because I don't feel like cooking. I'd say 80% of our blow/entertainment money is spent on dining out. There really is no reason for this, especially when we have a house full of food. But I am really making an effort this week, so I cooked breakfast at home this morning instead of running to McD's. We had leftovers for lunch, then met friends for dinner. We went to a local deli, where I had coupon for a free appetizer and we got a military discount. We saved about $6, and the total bill was only $17. After that our friends came over to watch some movies and play Wii. We had a great time, and $17 is not bad for a Saturday spent with friends!

2/28-3/6 Menu

Hello warm weather...where are you? I am so over this cold weather and I'm in the mood for warm weather and outdoor fun. Next weekend is the first race at our local dirt track and David and I are so excited about that we can't stand it! Other then that, it's just the same 'ole routine around here.

Here's the menu:
Sunday: Going over to friends house or Stuffed Shells
Monday: Stuffed Shells or leftovers, depending on if I make them on Sunday
Tuesday: Cola Chicken, Rice, Peas
Wednesday: Beef Stroganoff, Green Beans
Thursday: Baked Fish, Potatoes, Broccoli
Friday: Breakfast
Saturday: Out to the race track!

February Summary

February was a really great month for us, especially financially speaking. It really is amazing the things you can do and the motivation you find when you aren't paying a "stupid tax" on a credit card. We were blessed with getting a larger tax return then we planned on, and with that we were able to almost pay off the bike loan!
In addition to our regular income, we got back $1,556 from Uncle Sam. That is actually a LOT more then we anticipated. Usually our returns are small, about $500. But with the extra $800 stimulus whatever it was (I seriously do not understand all of that!) we got back a larger amount. And wouldn't you know, it was enough to cover all but about $170 on the Bike Loan! We were thrilled, this was out last debt to pay off before saving to buy a house next year. (More on that in the coming months-SO exciting!)

So all combined, here are the numbers for the month:
$351 toward the Truck (regular payment, but still lowering the balance!)
$1,617 to PAY OFF the Bike Loan
$60 Vehicle Savings and Maintenance

Total: We increased our net worth by $2,028

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2/24/10: Living Frugally

Today started rainy and cold here, so not too much happened. I went to Walmart early this morning to get some grocery items I didn't get at the commissary. I spent $25, and only saved $3 but I bought a lot of things that don't have coupons like eggs, fruit and seafood.

I also marinated 2 pounds of meat I will be making jerky out of tomorrow. David is leaving the country soon for work and I'm trying to get a bunch ready for him to take with him. All together it cost about $6. I don't know how much it would have cost to buy store bought, but I know it would be more the $6, plus it wouldn't be the quality I can get from making it myself.

For supper I made fish tacos, and dessert was strawberries with whipped topping. After dinner entertainment is a walk around the neighborhood and American Idol, of course.

Also, my seeds that are planted in the "green house tray" have started to sprout!! I can't wait for the weather to warm up so I can start planting outside!

**One thing I forgot to mention is that I am trying to cut down on my crazy soda addiction. Not only is it super unhealthy, but soda is not cheap! Today I only had 2 cans, which is much, much less then I normally drink, so that was pretty frugal, not to mention healthy!

2/23/10: Living Frugally

I've decided that in order to keep motivated and amp up my efforts, I'm going to try and keep track of frugal choices I've made for the day. In a perfect world, I would post my amazing frugality everyday. But the reality is, some days there just isn't much frugal-ness going on, and the some days I won't get around to posting. But I'm really going to try! I love reading about how everyone lives frugally on a daily basis. I get so many ideas, and I realize that in some ways I am making frugal choices and didn't know it, while other times I see that I can do so much more!

Yesterday I went with a friend to the commissary an hour away. It takes about 7 gallons of gas to drive there, and at the current price of $2.45 a gallon, it's a total of $17.15 to drive there. That sounds like a small fortune just to drive to a grocery store, but I easily made up for it in savings. Also, my friend and I switch out weeks, so every other week she drives. I spent a total of $105 (including a $2 bagger tip), and my total savings was $65! I am very happy with that, since I didn't go grocery shopping last pay period and we were low and just about everything. In reality, I saved much more then that, because the commissary is an average of 30% cheaper then Walmart.

On the way to the commissary we stopped by McD's where I ordered a biscuit from the Dollar Menu. I spent $1.09 but saved another $1 by bringing my own soda from home.

Our next stop was Old Navy to see what deals we could find. Sadly, there weren't many. I did buy a pair of pants for $10 and 2 pair of flip flops. Total spent: $16

On the way back to our town we picked up lunch at Chik-fil-A. I know! Eating at 2 fast food places in one day is neither frugal nor healthy. But we had a great time, and we don't have a Chik-fil-A in our town so it was a real treat. Total spent: $6

Then we stopped by the local grocery store for a few things. I got a couple grocery items, and used several Marcal Tissue Paper coupons. Total spent: $12, Savings $6

For dinner, David grilled some steaks for him and shrimp for me. I made hush puppies from scratch and a side of green beans. Total cost of the meal was about $7 compared to $30+ at a restaurant.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Staying Motivated

Good news! With the exception of the truck loan, we are DEBT FREE. Bad news? Now that we're not focused on paying off unsecured debt, we have lost some steam. It was easy to be motivated to get rid of that "evil credit card" and the motocycle loan. But now that we're saving to fully fund an emergency account, we're finding it to be harder. Yes, it's thrilling to be putting away money each pay check instead of sending it away, but at the same time, now we feel like we have "wiggle room" to cash flow things and frankly, we've been doing too much wiggling! We (mainly me!) have been justifying buying thats because I was putting so much stuff off when we were focusing on credit card debt. Now that we have cash in hand, I have been spending a lot on things we were putting off for the last few months. And I guess that fine, things have to be replaced, and now we have the cash to do it. But I am so scared that I'll get into the habit of spending and we'll one step forward, two steps back.

Also, I think another reason for my lack on motivation is because of my lack of posts! Now that the credit debt is gone, I feel like I have nothing to post about anymore. I've been thinking about branching out into other topics, and definitely adding a monthly summary so I can see how much we've been able to save. I've made a couple posts about cheap date/entertainment ideas, and I'd like to continue with those. I need to do something to get my focus back into saving and being finacially smart!

Monday, February 1, 2010

1/31-2/6 Menu

Mardi Gras is in full swing here, and with the Saints going to the Super Bowl next Sunday it's even bigger then ever! We've been to a couple parades already, and have several more in the next few weeks. This Friday is the Mona Lisa Moon Pie Parade, and I'm really excited about it. But that's really all that on the agenda for this week, it should be pretty quite until the weekend. So here's the menu for the week:

Sunday: Chili

Monday: Cola Chicken, Rice, Brussel Sprouts

Tuesday: Burgers, Cajun Potato Wedges

Wednesday: Pancakes, Eggs, Bacon

Thursday: Grilled Chicken, Macaroni, Peas

Friday: Parade, and out with friends.

Saturday: Spaghetti, Garlic Bread

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1/25-1/30 Menu

A day late, but here it is! I have really been having a hard time sticking to my menu lately, which causes me to run out to the local store for a few things every couple days. And our local store is NOT cheap. I don't normally leave there for under $10, and that adds up fast. The main struggle is that we have been having friends over or going over to a friends house a lot lately and I have to adjust my menu at the last minute. I think this week I've planned pretty well and I'm also making a couple dinners that will feed a crowd and freezing them, so I am always ready. That's my challenge for this week-STICK TO THE MENU. Or at least make something with ingredients I have on hand. Wish me luck!

Sunday: Chips and Dip while watching the Saint's/Viking's Game.
Monday: Garlic Chicken Pasta, Rolls
Tuesday: Meatball Subs
Wednesday: French Onion Soup with Sausage and Bread
Thursday: BBQ Sandwiches, Cajun Potato Wedges
Friday: Pork Chops, Potatoes, Peas and Rolls
Saturday: South Western Burgers, Rice

I am also making a lasagna, Broccoli Potato Soup, and some extra meatballs to freeze, as well as some deer jerky.

Hope you all have a great week! Can you believe it's the last week of January already!?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

$2 Date

Fountain Bleu
Have you ever heard the old wives tale that what you do on New Years Day is what you'll do all year long? Well this year I didn't want to take any chances! And what do I want to do this year? Spend time enjoying my family, and save more money! So we spent the day at out local state park, including a picnic lunch. We had a great time, David had never been to this park and it's one of Bear's favorites. Going to State Parks are a wonderful time. Not only are they cheap-in our case just $1 a person!-but the are so informative. You can learn so much about the history of your area. And the monies made on admission go back into the parks to help with up keep so others can enjoy. Add in that going for a walk and "exploring" is healthy and it's a total winner!
Fountain Bleu
Fountain Bleu
Fountain Bleu
Fountain Bleu
You can go here to find more information on State Parks in your area:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review: Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover

After almost a year of following Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover plan I finally read the book. I'd been watching his show here: but had never read the book. I checked it out of my local library, but this a book that I definitely recommend buying a copy to keep for your person use. I found some on Amazon for around $10, so well worth the price.

My favorite thing about the book has to be Dave's straight forward approach and his "tell it like it is" style. He's also extremely funny and uses great analogies.

The book is made up of 8 Baby Steps.

1. Get Current on all bills, and Save $1,000 as a Baby Emergency Fund.

2. Get out of debt, by using the Debt Snowball. (Excluding the mortgage.)

3. Finish the Emergency Fund with 3-6 months of expenses saved.

4. Maximize Retirement Investing.

5. Save for your Child's College.

6. Pay off the House.

7. Build Wealth

8. Live like no one else!

He goes into detail about how to accomplish each step and includes charts and formulas to help you plan. He also includes success stories of many other families that have had Total Money Makeovers. He debunks debt and money myths and provides shocking stats like these:

  • 78% of Americans say they would borrow on a credit card if a rainy day came.
  • 60% of people don't pay their credit card every month.

And the scariest stat of all: 49% of Americans could cover less then one months expenses if they lost their income! Do you see a pattern here?

Dave isn't all gloom and doom though, he stresses the fact that there is hope and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It's not easy but it IS worth it. He has other personal finance books that can be found here, including books for children and teens.

I think this book is wonderful and much needed in our current economic climate. It has really changed they way David and I view money, and it's changed our future!

Monday, January 11, 2010

1/10-1/16 Menu and a recipe!

It is COLD here in the South! All I've wanted to do is stay inside watching movies! We've been eating a lot of soup and chili lately. Sunday I made a huge batch of potato soup, and it really hit the spot. It was so simple and healthy and comforting. I have to credit my friend Jodi for this recipe (would you believe her name is Jodi Lynn, too!).

Jodi's Potato Soup
4-5 Cups Potatoes, diced small
6 cups Fat Free Chicken Broth
1 Package Country Gravy Mix

In a skillet saute the potatoes for about 10 minutes, or until soft. In a large pot combine chicken broth, potatoes, salt and pepper (to taste) and bring to a boil. Prepare gravy using package directions and add to potatoes and broth. Simmer 20-30 minutes. ENJOY!

Makes 6-7 cups.

(I like to top mine with a couple bacon crumbles, and some chives.)

Also, for anyone interested, it's only 2 Weight Watcher's Points per cup.

So, here's our menu for this week:

Sunday: Dinner over at our friends house, she make some awesome Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Monday: Cola Chicken, Rice, Green Beans, and Salad

Tuesday: Crockpot Cheeseburgers, Broccoli, Applesauce

Wednesday: Grits, Eggs, Bacon, Toast

Thursday: Tilapia, Spinach, Carrots, and Fruit

Friday: Swiss Steak, Salad

Saturday: Either out with friends, or leftovers

Hope y'all have a wonderful week!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Valentine's Day is coming!

I love Valentine's Day! I know people say it's too "commercial", and to a certain degree I think they are right, it can be. But it's also one of the most simple and sweet holidays. It's easy and cheap to show someone you love them, and it's IMPORTANT. Especially now, with so many families facing hard times, it's necessary to tell the people who love and support you the most just how much they mean to you. They are the ones you can always turn to, and the ones who take this journey with us. In this economy, with some many outside stresses, the relationships with our significant others aren't always as cared for and nurtured as they should. With the pressure of getting out of debt, performing well so you can keep your job, kids, housekeeping, and other things that need our attentions, it's easy to lose sight of what is really important and what you really are fighting for.

I stumbled across this blog, written by a lady named Cher and her husband. I think it's wonderful and so, so important. She offers such great ideas and inspiration-on a budget!! So go check it out, and share the love!,%20Actually

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Interesting Documentary

My friend shared this link with me, it's a PBS documentary on credit card practices, the Truth in Lending Act, and some insight on the politics behind them. I think everyone should watch this, include your spouse and teenage children.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010 Goals and Plans

It's time to start the new year! I am so excited about 2010. Last year was the first year in my entire life that I accomplished my resolution. I made it a goal in 2009 to end the year credit card debt free, and we did. We still have many other financial goals we want to reach and many habits we still need to work on, but accomplishing our 2009 goal has given me such motivation for the next steps in our financial journey. The plan is to continue on the same path, using the envelope system, and the biweekly budget we are using now. As for the goals, here are the 4 we are going to focus on in 2010.

1. Start 2010 with 7% contribution to our TSP retirement. DONE 1/1/2010

2. Have the Bike paid off by June.

3. Have 3 months worth of expenses saved by the end of the year. (About $6,000.)

4. Stay credit card debt free.

1/3-1/9 Menu

I love the holidays, but boy, am I glad things are getting back to normal this week. I love routines, and get anxious when mine gets messed up! This week David goes back to work, and things are settling down here.

Sunday: Deer Cubed Steaks, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Monday: Fish, Rice, Sweet Peas

Tuesday: Potatoes and Sausage

Wednesday: Spaghetti

Thursday: Cheesy Chicken and Mashed Potatoes

Friday: Chili

Saturday: Out to Dinner, or Leftovers

Hope you all have a wonderful week, and the begining of a happy New Year!