Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Weekly Spending Wrap Up + A Menu Plan

I'm all kinds of behind this week, after we were out of town this weekend, & a high mileage running week (28 miles this week, including my 12 mile run!) I need to put things back together, because there are only a couple of days left in February & I still have goals to complete. :-)

We were out of town over the weekend & stocked up on some fabulous deals in Oregon (tax free, & the Costco there carried items our Costco no longer stocks).

And, we're spending more on food again. It's just creeping up. S is growing like crazy & I swear there is never a moment that he's not asking for a snack. We try to keep things healthy, but it's so expensive!

  • Monday (2/18) - No spend day!
  • Tuesday (2/19)- $92.10 - gas
  • Wednesday (2/20)- No spend day!
  • Thursday (2/21)
    • $12.77 - postage for an eBay sale
  • Friday (2/22)
    • $80.94 - Osh Kosh. We stocked up on two winter jackets in the next size up, a couple of pair of pants (my oldest is growing like a weed) two pair of jeans & a pair of ski gloves for next year.
    • $226.33 - Costco (house stuff). This includes laundry soap, 3 containers of dish washing soap, paper towels, planters for our vacation house, soil, etc.
    • $107.70 - Costco (food)
    • $7.97 - two books for the kids
    • $14.97 - two toys for the kids (we had to kill two hours "in town"). Unnecessary, had I planned ahead.
    • $1.49 - soap at Rite Aid
    • $3 - last minute grocery items at the local shop to make spaghetti sauce.
  • Saturday (2/23)
    • $10 - spending money at the arcade
  • Sunday (2/24):
    • $1 for parking at a trail for my long run
    • $55.68 - more groceries at Costco
    • $5.35 - snacks while skiing
    • $9.71 - car wash after skiing
    • $119.75 - car tabs
Holy expensive week! In positive news, we ate at home for every meal (exception being the snacks while skiing). That's always impressive when we're on vacation. :-) $748.76 spent last week - more than double my goal.

Menu planning is more critical than ever, with our food spending. In awesome news, I've mastered crust in the bread maker, so we no longer have to purchase pizza crust - I make our own dough. Love cutting something on the list, & replacing it with a healthier, cheaper, homemade option!

  • Monday - Tacos (meat from the freezer)
  • Tuesday - Pasta with grilled chicken
  • Wednesday - Tacos, take two (leftovers). May try to convince the kids to go for burritos, to keep things interesting. ;-)
  • Thursday - I have a late meeting, so either grilled chicken over salad, or leftovers.
  • Friday - Salmon, rice, & roasted brussels sprouts
  • Saturday - M & I may try to do a date night, but if not, I'm going to make Chicken Risotto.
  • Sunday - Pizza after skiing
I also need to make more Chicken Taquitos, to stock the freezer.

What's on your menu this week? How are you doing with your February goals? Are you on track, with just a few days left?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February Fitness Challenge - Week 3

I can't believe week three is over! We're in the home stretch now. If you're participating in the February Fitness Challenge, be sure to post with a link to your blog & leave me a comment (you get one prize entry for each week that you comment) on your progress so you can be entered to win one of the two $25 paypal drawing prizes!

Last week I posted about standing in my own way, & struggling to get up at 5:00 am. . . And, I'm happy to say that I got up three times during week 3 to work out in the morning. Woohoo for progress!

) Track my calories in MyFitnessPal every day, & stay within my calorie allotment 90% of the time. In February, that boils down to 25 days. It's my birthday month, so trying to be realistic. - I've tracked my calories every day, and have stayed within my calorie allotment 85% of the time. Close!
2) Get 1,000 minutes of cardio. - I'm at 1049 minutes, so I'm crushing this goal & still have 7 days left in the month!
3) Complete 10 strength workouts. - I'm at 5 workouts, (up from 2 last week), so I'm picking up the pace. Not sure if I can achieve 10, but I'm doing better on this one.
4) Complete 7 stretching workouts. - I'm at 2, so this needs to be a focus for the last week.
5) Bonus goal - attend a Pilates or Barre workout class. I have a Groupon for a local studio, but have never made it given M's travel schedule & the kids. I'd love to make this a priority. - I'm moving this off of my priority list for the month. It's just not realistic right now for me. The Groupon will expire without me using it (*cringe*), but right now, I need to set realistic goals for myself & worry about what I can accomplish at home with the kids. 

Here's my workout plan for this week:
Monday - Skied 15 runs (half day). Lots of good cardio.
Tuesday - Ran 4.25 miles + lifted weights + pilates.
Wednesday - Ran 4 miles.
Thursday - 60 minutes of cross-training (elliptical) + lifted weights
Friday - will run 6 miles, as specified by my training plan
Saturday - last long run in my half marathon training plan. 12 miles!
Sunday - rest day

How about you? How's your February Fitness Challenge going? Leave a comment with your blog post, so we can cheer you on! :-)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Making financial traction

Over the past month or so, it feels like our finances are settling down a bit, & I'm incredibly grateful that things are going well again. We received quite a bit of money back (around $3900) after our refinance closed (this was expected- one payment was taken out by the bank even though the loan was closed, & we paid quite a bit back into escrow knowing we'd receive the money from the old escrow account at the end of the transaction.)

I figured out 95% our tax situation (waiting on M to upload a few final interest details so we can wrap this up), & while we owe quite a bit (a little under $15,000), I have the money earmarked from another account. We've also adjusted our with holdings for next year to avoid yet another tax snafu.

I also discovered that I'd miscalculated M's income, and our 2013 budget was based on a lower amount that needed. I'm kind of liking the tightness of our current budget (well, a little more wiggle room would be awesome) & knowing that we can stick to the revised budget is pretty empowering, & the more we can stick to our lowered budget, the more we can apply to our long-term financial goals - mortgage pay down (both houses) & fully funded college accounts for the kids.

As part of the refinance reimbursements, I was able to rebuild our emergency fund back up to $10,000, which feels so very good. I also have nearly $800 in my travel fund, as a result of my snowflakes & just some extra money from 2012 that was lingering in that account. I should be able to buy our plane tickets to Las Vegas in the next few weeks! Yeah!

I'm also starting to think about our gardening plans for the summer. I wish my father-in-law was here this summer! My in-laws stayed with us a couple of years ago, & he planted an elaborate & fabulous garden as his hobby to entertain himself during the day.

Do you get bored when your finances seem to automate themselves a bit? How do you stay motivated? I find that continuing to track my weekly expenses helps somewhat.

Are you thinking about your garden? What are you planning for spring?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ten Things Tuesday

I'm in a random mood today, so here goes. :-)

  1. I survived skiing solo with the kids yesterday. And, it was fabulous!
  2. I had a great run today.
  3. I've made $560 (net) on eBay so far, & I'm thrilled! I'll be able to buy our Las Vegas plane tickets in the next week or so.
  4. We're heading to the beach on Thursday evening for a long weekend.
  5. I feel like my marriage with M gets stronger all the time. We've always been happy, but not having infants & getting plenty of sleep has made life easier. :-) I feel like we're in a fantastic groove.
  6. I'm sort of bored with money at the moment. We finished our refinance, we've cut back the majority of our exuberant spending, we're doing a good job of not spending on "wants" vs needs, & things feel on track. It's a bit boring. ;-)
  7. I need to focus on losing these last 10-15 pounds. I'm getting of plenty of exercise, so it's what I'm eating, obviously (and how much, of course). I've gotten sloppy & need to clean things up.
  8. I love ski season, but I'm happy it's wrapping up. It's a lot of work/laundry/effort, & I like having Sundays for my long runs & a bit of relaxing around the house.
  9. The sun is shining & I desperately want to be outside right now. In Seattle, you don't waste these moments in February!
  10. My big boy, S, turned seven on Saturday.

How are you all? Anything thrilling happening this Tuesday?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekly Spending Wrap Up (2/11-2/17/13)

Here's how we spent our money last week! It was a much spendier week than normal, but pretty much everything was planned for my son's birthday (although swapping bowling & a movie for skiing due to weather).

  • Monday - No spend day
  • Tuesday - No spend day
  • Wednesday -
    • $.60 at Tully's for a sandwich. The rest was on a gift card.
  • Thursday -
    • $44.53 - Valentine's Day lunch.
    • Costco - $112.25. Groceries for the week & house guests.
    • Costco - $27.48 - yard stuff
    • Costco - $42.84 - wine. They stopped carrying my generic brand & M got the real stuff. It's almost twice as expensive. *sheds tear*
  • Friday -
    • $11.53 - Rite Aid for mailing envelopes for eBay purchases.
  • Saturday - We were supposed to ski with family for S's birthday, but we got rained out. We ended up bowling, & taking the kids to a movie. It was a great birthday anyway!
    • $118.14 - bowling, drinks, & snacks at the bowling alley.
    • $33 - movies
    • $36.58 - Maggiano's takeout
    • $15.29 - Office Depot (eBay supplies)
    • $41.79 - Post office (eBay)
  • Sunday -
    • $13.87 - Target. The boys each got Target gift cards in their birthday goodie bags, but somehow, N lost his. Not sure where it went, but when we went to pick out prizes, I paid for his treat. Maybe we'll find it, but I won't hold my breath. :-)
    • $76.45 - Gas
    • Costco - $86.29 - groceries. We had guests all weekend, so we  went through a ton of supplies.
    • Costco - $13.82 - dishwasher detergent (house category).
Total spent = $674.46

We had $175 planned for S's birthday, & ended up spending $187, which is pretty great, considering we swapped the plans. That doesn't include the money we spent entertaining guests, of course.

How about you? How spendy was your weekend? I'm off to have a Mom/Boy ski day at the mountain today, since school is closed here. Can't wait to spend time with my boys. :-)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Snowflakes & revelations

First up, the fun news. :-) My eBay sales have been going well, & I've had a few other snowflakes over the past week or so. I'm saving my snowflakes to fund a trip to Las Vegas for my sister's 40th birthday. Viva Las Vegas! :-)

That's my lovely sister, on the left, on the plane to Las Vegas last year.

Here's my earlier post on snowflake progress.

Since then, I've had quite a bit of success:
  • $10.15 - this was an Amazon book sale. I cancelled all of the rest of my sales due to the postage snafu, but it took quite a while for these funds to clear
  • $12 - reimbursement for a gift I purchased for my mom (I used a gift card)
  • $80 - birthday money :-)
  • $6.30 - Ebates check
  • $272.08 - from my first round of eBay sales.
As it currently stands, I have $432.48 towards my goal of $1,000. Almost half way there! And, I sold another $300 or so this week.

And, on a completely different topic, I had an unpleasant but necessary revelation over the weekend. We were celebrating my son's birthday & I had to come to terms with my parents. I love them, & they are wonderful people, but they are not the kind of grandparents I expected them to be. I think it's particularly hard because they were amazing when I was growing up. But . . . they are really uninvolved as grandparents, & it's just not what I was expecting. I expected them to grandparent similar to the way they parented, and it's not the case. Me continually wishing otherwise isn't going to change anything.

Coming to terms with this has been a long time coming, and rather than being continually disappointed and hurt, I need to lower my own expectations and be happy with what I have and they give.

Does that make any sense at all? Anyone else in a similar position?

On a fun note, I'm taking the boys skiing tomorrow (by myself!), since I have the day off. Mommy/boys ski day! Wish me luck. :-)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The only person standing in your way - February Fitness Challenge Week 2

I was writing an email to my sister yesterday about how challenging it is to fit in my workout. Basically, after my schedule changed last year & M started traveling more, it was obvious that working out at 5:00 am was going to be my only consistent option. However, I've protested, rebelled, dreamed up 1,000 excuses, & then of course. . . complained about not being able to work out regularly.

As I was typing the email, I realized that the reason I was so frustrated with my lack of consistent workouts was because - I had the power to change it & wasn't. The only person standing in the way of me consistently working out at 5:00 am was me.

I could go on & on about the challenges any given day presents (my work schedule, late meetings, M's travel schedule, not having family to rely on, kids activities, illnesses, last minute work scrambles, etc). But, very few things interrupt a 5:00 am workout. If I want it? It's there.

So this morning I set the alarm & actually got up & went for a run at 5:00. Was it my best run? Definitely not. It was the slowest I've been in a long time. I was dehydrated (hadn't had anything to drink in 14 hours), it was tricky to run in the dark (I was wearing a headlamp), & I just wasn't quite awake yet. But these are all things I can fix. I can wake up & drink a glass of water before heading out. I can bring water with me. I can get a bigger headlamp. . . it's all within my power. I CAN DO THIS. I can change my life and my schedule & build consistent habits that make me feel good.

Knowing that I can build my own consistent schedule has given me the feeling of control again, which makes me happy. Working out consistently is very important for my sanity and feeling good about myself, and if that means waking up at 5:00 am, I'm going to do it.

On to week two results of the February Fitness Challenge!

1) Track my calories in MyFitnessPal every day, & stay within my calorie allotment 90% of the time. In February, that boils down to 25 days. It's my birthday month, so trying to be realistic. - I've tracked my calories every day, and have stayed within my calorie allotment 84% of the time. Close!
2) Get 1,000 minutes of cardio. - I'm at 697 minutes, so well on my way to this goal!
3) Complete 10 strength workouts. - I'm at 2 workouts, & didn't have a single strength workout this week. This is a focus for next week!
4) Complete 7 stretching workouts. - I'm at 1, so this needs to be a focus for the rest of the month. Stuck at one. I know how important this is, but it's very hard to make the time during the week when M travels.
5) Bonus goal - attend a Pilates or Barre workout class. I have a Groupon for a local studio, but have never made it given M's travel schedule & the kids. I'd love to make this a priority. - I'm moving this off of my priority list for the month. It's just not realistic right now for me. The Groupon will expire without me using it (*cringe*), but right now, I need to set realistic goals for myself & worry about what I can accomplish at home with the kids.

How about you? How did you do with your goals? Are you standing in the way of your own success, workout or otherwise? Please leave a comment with a link to your post or include your progress to be entered to win one of the two $25 paypal drawing prizes at the end of the month!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What I've learned selling on Ebay

As part of my goal to make $1,000 in "side hustle" (loosely defined as anything outside of my normal paycheck), I've experimented with a few different options:

1)Selling books on Amazon (the shipping killed me). I ended up canceling all of my listings & taking everything to the used bookstore.
2) Craigslist - great for heavy items with a low price point, or items that would be difficult to ship.
3) Ebay.

I'm admittedly a complete novice when it comes to Ebay (I've completed my initial round of auctions, & have ten more that are active right now), but here are a few Ebay tips and tricks I've picked up.

  1. The pictures really count. I had one very high value item (a pair of designer shoes) & took the time to have M set up a photo area (sheets as backdrop), got out the big camera, & spent 30 minutes or so setting things up for the right shot. I do not do this for smaller items, but for the shoes, it made a huge difference.
  2. Research the postage! Postage is a killer for me. On my first round of auctions, I tried hard to keep the postage costs reasonable to encourage bidding. What happened? I lost money on several of the auctions, because the postage ended up being substantially more than I expected. I'd prefer to have something not sell than lose money because of postage.
  3. Pre-package the items you have listed. See #2. Part of the reason that I underestimated the postage was that I didn't take the time to find appropriately sized packages/boxes before listing the items. Multiple items were light, but large (hats, for example) & required large boxes that were quite expensive to ship. If you take the time to pre-package your items, you can weigh them at home and get a very good estimate for the final shipping price.
  4. Fully describe all flaws. I typically don't sell anything that isn't new, new without tags, or in excellent condition, because it's hard to get the value out of those items. However, I do have a few purses that have minimal leather wear on the bottom, and describing that wear & taking multiple pictures allows the buyer to know exactly what they are getting. Many buyers will decide that minor wear on the bottom of the purse doesn't bother them, and they will bid anyway, but hiding/not fully disclosing a flaw in your original listing isn't going to do you any favors. What happens when the buyer receives your packages & finds flaws they weren't expecting? My goal is to have satisfied buyers at the end of each transaction, and while not always entirely possible, describing and photographing any and all flaws in detail goes a long way towards avoiding surprises.
  5. Be prepared for the unexpected. I'm still learning how listings work, but I've definitely had to pass up money because I didn't understand all of the rules. Once someone bids on an auction, you are limited in what you can change in the listing. Also, there will be buyers who don't follow through with their end of the purchase. I had an item in my last round (shoes, again :-)) that received 20+ bids, and the high bidder never paid. Rather than accepting the Second Chance offer, I chose to relist. I'm not sure if that was the right strategy, but will soon find out.
  6. Think about seasons. I had a bunch of expensive ski stuff to list, and realized that if I didn't get it listed last week, I needed to wait until next season. No one wants to bid on an item and put it in their closet until next year. I have a stack of Halloween items ready to go for next fall.
  7. Start small. I started with ten relatively small listings, and learned a bunch about the process. I gave myself a week off, because it was pretty time consuming, and now have another batch listed. In my experience, it's always best to give yourself time to learn the ropes before you fully commit with an enormous list of expensive items.
  8. It's a risk! You have to be prepared to sell an item for your minimum bid price. I start off all of my auctions at $.99 to encourage bidding. And, two of my items sold in the last round for under $3.00. Now, did I think they were worth more? Of course, or I wouldn't have gone through the trouble of listing them. Could I have thought of other ways to use the items if I knew how little I would make (or, in some cases, that I would lose money)? Yes again. But, with some items, it really is difficult to predict their value until you list them.
  9. Do your research. On the other hand, it's very helpful to research similar items and get a sense for what your listing might sell for. This is helpful for two reasons. 1) You may look at the sell price of similar items and determine that it's not worth listing. 2) If you receive a message for a buyer looking to buy it & end the auction, you'll know the appropriate value to charge.
  10. Communicate. I try to respond to each and every buyer question within a few hours (barring time zone issues). Even if I'm not interested in their offer, it's important to let them know that right away. I also invoice a buyer as soon as an auction closes, contact them as soon as I've shipped something, and leave them feedback. Doing this is important for your own selling reputation, but helps make the Ebay community work as well.

That's it so far. As I said, I'm truly a beginner at this, but thought I would share what I've learned so far.

What about you? Do you sell on Ebay? What tips & tricks have you learned along the way? Any big wins or success stories?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekly Spending Wrap Up (2/4/13-2/10/13)

Last week was a little bit spendier than normal - we had to pay for half of our door repairs (at our vacation house) & we had some additional splurges in there, as well as picking up some spring yard items.
  • Monday - No spend day!
  • Tuesday - No spend day!
  • Wednesday -
    • $.86 on two small potatoes at the store. It's for a special rice dish M made me for my birthday. You thinly slice the potatoes on the pan (in oil, of course - it's a splurge!) to form a crust before you add the rice.
    • $1. It was free frozen yogurt day at Menchies. This was for a tip for the poor girls working in there. It was madness!
  • Thursday -
    • $1.99 - tortillas at the grocery store. Of course, what I defrosted turned out to be spaghetti sauce instead of taco meat, but who's counting? ;-)
  • Friday -
    • $28.64 - Birthday lunch! The rest was covered by a gift card.
    • $70 on yard items at Costco (goes under the house category)
    • $102.91 - groceries at Costco. Big expenses this week were cashews (one of my snacks I eat after runs) & coffee. Total for those two items was just over $30. The rest was:.
      • Laughing cow cheese, 2 containers of organic eggs, milk
      • Bagels
      • Bananas, grapes, oranges, pears, apples, kiwi, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber
    • $1285 - deposit for the repairs on our door/roof at our vacation house.
  • Saturday
    • Pre-birthday massage (covered by a gift card & coupon!)
    • $12.20 at Fred Meyer, Valentine's cards for two kids, construction paper for our Valentine's craft, & dry milk
  • Sunday -
    • $20 on ski snacks (estimate, as I didn't keep my receipts)
All told, we spent $1522.60 last week.

How did you do on your weekly spending?

Menu Plan Monday

There's a lot going on this week, so here's what's on the agenda:

  • Monday - M's out of town. I'll be enjoying leftover Persian dinner (rice, beef kebabs & cucumber yogurt sauce)
  • Tuesday - Either Persian dinner, or something else from the freezer
  • Wednesday - Tortellini with pesto
  • Thursday - Enchiladas (from the freezer)
  • Friday - Taco & margarita fest with the family (in town for S's birthday)
  • Saturday - Skiing all day, so ordering take out Maggiano's for S's birthday dinner. My mom is bringing the cupcakes.
  • Sunday - Pizza or leftovers
What's on your menu this week? I got a bread maker for my birthday, so I'm excited to try out new recipes!

Here are a few pictures from our ski day yesterday. It was gorgeous!

And, N, who skied a couple of black runs with me. It was fun, but a little scary!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Happy Saturday!

What are you hoping to get done today? I'm going to take the boys to karate practice, & then do my 11 mile run. *fingers crossed* I did 9 miles last weekend, but haven't been able to run much this week. I know I can do it, but mentally & physically, it's hard to motivate once I'm passed about mile 8 or so.

I listed a bunch of additional items on Ebay last night (trying to achieve my $400 in side hustle!) & already have some solid interest, so I'll work on getting the next batch ready. I also received $80 for my birthday (I swear, adults don't exchange gifts in my family, but my mom & grandmother sweetly sent me cash), which I'll be applying towards my snowflake.

This is what I'm working towards! Taking my sister to Las Vegas to celebrate her 40th! Girls trip. :-)

I also need to accomplish the following:
  • Bake bread
  • Bake cranberry muffins to stock the freezer for M
  • Make a menu plan for the week
  • Recrunch all of the 2013 budget numbers to adjust for our new variance.
  • Recrunch our 3,5,10 year budget plans to determine our timing for paying off our various mortgages

I'll also be getting a massage (my present!), eating the Persian feast M is making, drinking wine, & eating cupcakes. It's a good thing I'm running those 11 miles to burn it all off! Sounds like a pretty great day! Can't wait. :-)

Friday, February 8, 2013

The sweetest of all mistakes

First up, today is guaranteed to be a fantastic day, because I'm meeting my sweet husband for an early birthday celebration. Yeah! :-) The day will be less fun as I have a four hour meeting this afternoon. What a fun way to kick off the weekend, right?

Now, I've been poring over our budget numbers to try and get a better picture on our long range financial goals, & whether our time lines are realistic. And, no matter how many times I crunched the numbers, things just didn't make sense. Additionally, I couldn't figure out how our current monthly budget was working. As background, M's paycheck is direct deposited into his account, with a variety of expenses automatically paid from there. We've talked about having all funds deposited into one account, but after all this time, we've stuck to our old ways. :-)

Anyway, M's switched jobs, we had a variety of random expenses that he was paying, & I could not get the budget numbers (income minus expenses) to add up. . . And, today I figured out why! I made a typo, & all of our budgets - including the 2013 budget & our long-term financial projections - were based on that error. And, we actually have more money than I thought. How often does that happen in life? Never, I think.

Honestly, we've had some very difficult months with the bonus repayment, & the (still pending) tax situation, the refinances, & what an absolutely delightful surprise to find out that I built our entire 2013 budget off of a lower amount? Pretty darn skippy!

We're still making adjustments to our net monthly pay to try & lower our tax payment next year, but I expect the difference to be about $2,000/month. An incredibly sizable amount. And, a pretty good indication that M & I need to correct our shared account situation & get a bit more buttoned up. We'll be using a small amount of the money to add a much needed date night back into the budget, & use the rest to pay down our second mortgage. HAPPY FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

And, if you haven't updated your first week in the fitness challenge, please comment so you can be entered to win one of the $25 paypal prizes!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

February Fitness Challenge - Week 1!

The first week of the February Fitness Challenge is wrapping up. How did you do on your goals?

Here are the goals that I set for the month, & my progress against them.

1) Track my calories in MyFitnessPal every day, & stay within my calorie allotment 90% of the time. In February, that boils down to 25 days. It's my birthday month, so trying to be realistic. - Let's see, I tracked my calories every day, & have stayed within my calorie allotment six of the seven days last week (went over on a day of back-to-back super high calorie burn - skiing & 9 mile run). That's 86%, but close.
2) Get 1,000 minutes of cardio. - I'm at 422 minutes, so well on my way to this goal!
3) Complete 10 strength workouts. - I'm at 2 workouts, so need to step this up.
4) Complete 7 stretching workouts. - I'm at 1, so this needs to be a focus for the rest of the month.
5) Bonus goal - attend a Pilates or Barre workout class. I have a Groupon for a local studio, but have never made it given M's travel schedule & the kids. I'd love to make this a priority. - I called & left a message at the studio, & registered for a class next week. Haven't heard back, but this should work!

If you haven't joined the challenge, you can join for the next three weeks & still be entered to win the prizes! You'll get an entry for each week where you participate in the challenge, & the random drawing winners will each receive $25 via paypal.

If you have a blog, comment with the link to your Week 1 wrap up. If you don't have a blog, detail your goals & progress in the comments!

Can't wait to hear how you all did. :-)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Weekly spending wrap up (1/28/13-2/3/13)

I'm a little late getting this up, but tracking my weekly spending is always illuminating, & often shames me into not making unnecessary purchases. :-) After a nutty week with sick kids (& one sick kid), there was some random spending in there, but nothing too exuberant.

  • Monday (1/28/13) - $4.67 - postage for my Ebay sales.
  • Tuesday (1/29/13) - No spend day!
  • Wednesday (1/30/13)- No spend day!
  • Thursday (1/31/13)-
    • $1 at Rite Aid for Gatorade for a sick kid
    • $5.51 for medicine.
  • Friday (2/1/13)-
    • Received a check for $12, as reimbursement for a gift I picked up.
    • $36.52 - groceries at Costco
  • Saturday (2/2/13)-
    • $30.95 - gas
    • $40.16 - groceries at Costco (again. Poor planning)
    • $3.71 - groceries at Fred Meyer
    • $7.99 - Beer for M for the Superbowl
    • $25.13 on household items
    • Out to dinner with a friend & our kids. Used a gift card.
  • Sunday (2/3/13)-
    • $8.69 on snacks while skiing
    • $19.75 on dessert for an impromptu dinner with friends. My friend treated me to a ski lesson & dinner for all of us, so this was my contribution.
    • $9.71 - car wash after skiing

How did we do? Total spend of $181.79, which is better than I expected, given the few splurge purchases we made (dessert out, picking up some Superbowl snacky stuff for M, etc).

Even though the January Financial Challenge is over, I'm really trying to hold myself to the $360/week budget.

How did your week go? Do you track your spending weekly?

A few excellent recipes and Valentine's Day

First of all, thank you all so much for your thoughts on my sick time/sick kid issue. I really appreciate it, and it's nice to have other perspective. I would love to have a backup plan, but sick time is so sporadic - you never know when you're going to need it. Oddly, my employer provides an emergency child care service for situations just like this. I've tried it twice. Both times were a complete & total failure - I would NEVER leave my kids with either of the people they sent. Once person was two hours late & reeked of smoke, & asked if she could smoke in our house. The other person was clearly incapable of taking care of a toddler. It was frustrating & disappointing, & made me never want to use the service again.

We try not to be too paranoid about the kids (they go to school, & we feel comfortable with their care providers), but for someone to be alone in our house with our kids? Well, that's a much tougher sell for me. We do, however, need to find a regular babysitter for evenings out. They are so difficult to find in are area, & no one wants to pass on their recommendations! :-)

Number Crunching!
Enough about that. Lately I've been doing extremely detailed number crunching on our larger financial goals (mortgage payoffs, kids college, etc) to determine our time lines for paying these off. It's motivating (and, frankly, a little shocking) to see how much of our monthly income we need to divert to these payments to make quick progress. I'll have a post on this soon once I have a good sense of the numbers.

Last night I did some baking & cooking for the week ahead. I made this Hearty Turkey Stew with Vegetables for my lunches, & it's amazing! I used some sliced turkey from the freezer, & that worked well.

I also made my mini skier some muffins to take on the bus today. I took this muffin recipe, and swapped out the cranberries for chocolate chips, & added a few sprinkles of cinnamon. They are - fantastic!

And, M is a huge muffin connoisseur. He has one every morning while he's working, before the rest of us get up & make an official breakfast. When we got married, I promised to always keep him stocked in muffins. I typically hold up my end of the bargain, but sometimes it gets dicey. :-) His favorite recipe is the Fresh Cranberry Muffin version, so I made a triple batch of that last night as well. They do very well in the freezer, so we just defrost what we need each week. The muffins are his early Valentine's Day gift. I know, I know, we're crazy romantic around here. :-)  We're also going to lunch together on Valentine's Day, and will likely have a glass of wine together in the evening to round things out. Given that my birthday is just a few days before, lots of celebrations going on!

How are you celebrating Valentine's Day this year? Have you tried any great recipes lately?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Something for yourself

Today, of all days, seems like the right day for this post. :-)

It's way too easy to get caught up in the cycle of what we're not doing, and focusing on all of the people that depend on us. Kids, employer, spouse, family, friends.

Today, I'd like to challenge you to do something just for yourself. If you're a part of the February Fitness Challenge, take the time to accomplish one of your goals. Make a healthy meal, go for a long walk, meditate at home, whatever.

If you're not part of the challenge - carve out 15 minutes to read a book, write in a journal, or take a hot bath.

Here's my commitment to myself today:
  1. Making time to run 4 miles
  2. A yoga or pilates workout after the kids go to bed.
It's as simple as that, but when things come up, time to myself is the first to go. My birthday is this week (I'm getting old! ;-)), so my gift to myself will be carving out time every day to focus on me.

What are you going to do for yourself today? Leave a comment & make a commitment to yourself! :-)

Dreaming of the beach this week!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Running on Empty

Cue Jackson Browne's song. . . Love me some Jackson Browne. When I was in college, I went to visit my big sis in Chicago. We ended up with free tickets to a Jackson Browne concert. Neither of us had ever heard of the guy (what can I say, we were sheltered?!), & both fell in love.

Anyway, enough about my love for Jackson. . . Our current lives are very tightly orchestrated. M & I both have very demanding careers. He travels (a lot). We have two young kids. N & S have both been sick A TON over the past few weeks. We've had: bronchitis, double ear infections, croup, sinus infections, and the stomach flu. . . M has also been sick.

When we need time off, or coverage to take care of sick kids? Neither of our careers provide much of that flexibility. A little bit here & there in an emergency? Sure thing. Repeated days off over the course of a few weeks? No way.

We almost took N to the emergency room last week when his croup was so bad that he was struggling to breathe. M cancelled a trip to watch S, I shuffled N back & forth to appointments. It's just been so stressful. Especially when I really don't want to take the kids back to school, & I'm unsure of how well they are feeling, but I send them anyway because I've missed so much work. It's an awful, guilt-filled complex & there's no winner. If I stay home from work, I feel guilty & like a slacker, & then I'm trying to balance a million things at home. If I send the kids to school, I'm distracted & can't focus & keep thinking about what I would do differently if I wasn't working.

Our closest family is 2 hours away (with no traffic, & other than overnight, it's likely more of a 2.5 hour drive). My mom will be retiring in a few years, & can hopefully be more available to help, but both of my parents still work, which further adds to the complexity. I can't be burdening them when they have their own jobs.

The last few weeks have been absolutely exhausting. And, emotional, because I feel like there's no good solution.

M & I have both been in not great moods, so this weekend I decided a little fun was in order. M hung out with the kids on Saturday morning while I did my 9 mile run. Which, was absolutely brutal, by the way. My legs felt like there were bricks strapped on. Then, we traded & I took the kids to a bouncy house event (they are not contagious, don't worry, I'm not spreading germs around :-)) & went to dinner with friends. I used a gift card, but just decided to go for it. :-) M relaxed & hung out with friends sans kids.

Yesterday I took a ski lesson with a friend & her daughters & we skied all day. My legs are not used to so much weekend abuse. :-) We finished the evening out with pizza & cupcakes, which were much needed after our giant calorie burn on the slopes.

More to come, but I'm still trying to sort my way through the working mom gig. It's no easy feat. And, although my goal was to avoid date nights as much as possible (to avoid the cost of a sitter), I'm really missing that time with M (we've swapped to lunch). I think I'm going to cut funds from somewhere else in order to swing a date night. We haven't been out together since our anniversary in October, & quite frankly, I just miss that connection.

Do you face similar struggles? How do you handle it when the kids are sick? What did you do this weekend?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What did I accomplish in January

I'm not going to lie, January was a *tough* month for me. I'm knee deep in a new job, M traveled a LOT (again), we got the news about our taxes, the kids were sick, & M was sick.

Given the challenges that January held, I think I kept things together pretty well.

I had some very lofty goals for the month:

  1. Lose 4 pounds. This should be very doable. Goal end weight for January is 143. - ha ha. Yes, so doable. ;-) I lost two pounds, & honestly, I'm pretty thrilled. I'm in pretty good shape, & have really good eating habits, so getting my weight down further is an exercise in patience. I'm not looking for short term wins, but long term progress. I also know that as I ramp my running, my muscle tone changes, which slows down the scale, but makes me look noticeably fitter & makes my clothes fit better. I'll take it.
  2. Track food & exercise every day in My Fitness Pal. - Done! My goal for this month was really to get into the habit with this, & I did it. I didn't follow the calorie goals every day (more on that later), but I did track myself every day.
  3. Complete 1100 minutes of cardio. - I completed 1036 minutes, which is well above my monthly average for 2012.
  4. Complete 10 strength workouts. - I completed 8 strength workouts.
  5. Complete 10 stretching workouts. - I completed 4 stretching workouts. Honestly, the only time I have to do these is after the kids go to bed, & I'm typically too beat to make it happen.
  6. Run consistently, which means:
    1. Run 1 race. I'm currently signed up for a very close (& frugal - $15!) race on January 12th.  - Done!
    2. Run 20 miles/week. - Nope. This was unrealistic this month, given our skiing schedule.
    3. Run 100 miles for the month. - Ditto above. I ran just over 64 miles this month.
  • Buy one tuition credit for each child. - Done!
  • Pay $5000 principal on mortgages. (This will be dependent upon the timing of our refinances.) - Not done, due to timing of our refinances. I need to evaluate where we are once all of the money "settles" & recalculate my monthly goals. We did pay $1360 on principal separate from the refinances.
  • Have one date night (or lunch) with M. I have a gift card to keep the costs low. - Done!
  • Get together with two friends. - Done!
  • Track spending, stick to budget, & create a monthly report. - Well, yes to the first & third. On the second, we are likely going to finish right on the nose (over in some categories & under in others). More details to come.
  • Increase charitable giving by 10% - Yes!
  • Clean my closet, dresser, & donate/purge 20 items from the house. - I purged well over 100 items for the month, but didn't fully clean either the dresser or closet. I started, & I'm about half way there.
  • Practice my baking skills by trying one bread & one English muffin recipe. - Done! I found an asesome bread recipe. I've failed at the English muffin bread twice now. :-(
  • Research wills online (i.e. what do we need to do to prepare? Is it covered under my legal insurance, etc). - Done! And, we agreed on a guardian, which was a huge step! I have a list of attorneys, but haven't been able to get in for an appointment yet.

  • What about you? How did you do on your January goals?

    Friday, February 1, 2013

    January Financial Round Up

    I promised (myself) that I would start doing monthly wrap ups, so here's what we made/spent/etc.

    • Earned: Just a smidge over $12,000 (not including snowflakes, which aren't calculated for our monthly budget purposes.)*
    • Spent: $15,532
    *This is our net pay. A few things are taken out of our checks & aren't noted below - health fees, insurance, gym membership, & charitable contributions (in addition to all of the standard tax stuff).
    It's never good to have a month where you spent more than you earned, but at least for this month, the money went towards our refinances. All of the refinance money is going toward: escrow (taxes & insurance), as well as the interest on the payments, principal, etc. So, it's not lost & didn't go into fees, etc. It's just that until all of the money settles, I can't track it exactly & have just bucketed it under "refinance costs". Unfortunately, our closing was also delayed by a week, which means I also have to pay another mortgage payment that will end up getting reimbursed back to me. That will come on out of February's budget. Ouch.

    Here's where we were on budget (actual spent/budget):
    • Dining out - $65.67/75 - Yes, in fact, the lowest we've spent on dining out since I was in college, probably. Woot!!!!!!!!!!
    • Boys lessons - $0/150 - covered the lesson cost out of a gift card promotion I received.
    • Gas - $259.73/$275 - our fuel efficient diesel continues to save us money.
    • Clothes for me - $0/0. Yeah, baby. :-)
    • Travel - $0/0.
    • Liquor - $0/0. Drinking the wine I found leftover at our vacation house. A girl can't really go without wine. ;-)
    • Primary mortgage - $700/4850. This is due to the refinance. We didn't actually skip a payment. The majority of this money was part of the refi, & will eventually lower our mortgage balance once the dust settles.
    • Insurance - $316.67/317.
    • Christmas - $0/-$3.88 - returned an item.
    • Vacation mortgage - $2600/$2600.
    • Skiing - $0/20
    • M's clothes - $0/0
    And, here's where we were over:
    • Groceries - $511.53/$500. Still, thrilled with this number. A substantial reduction over our annual spend in 2012 - $733.
    • Vacation house utilities - $666.95/200. I forgot to include your yearly fee that we pay a local service to watch our house & fix minor repairs.
    • Primary residence utilities - $748.17/400. A good reminder to account for higher power bills in the winter months. Also, as part of the change to a new team, my cell phone bill is no longer fully covered by my employer.
    • Boys clothes - $80/0. The unexpected karate unifroms for their lessons.
    • Gifts - $10.93/0. I picked up a gift for my mom, but will be reimbursed.
    • Child care - $2070/1200. I bought gift cards during a holiday promotion that I'll use for summer camps. As a bonus, I got promotional gift cards that I used to offset the boys karate lessons.
    • Personal - $131/50. All four of us got hair cuts (I get 1-2 a year, but wanted it before my video shoot), & I got a pedicure, which was unecessary.
    • Health - $60/84.77. Registered for a race & had to pay $10 for parking at another race, because I was late. Groans for wasted money.
    • House - $221.69/100. M's cousin (who is an electrician) unexpectedly came to visit, & we took the opportunity to have him help wth some repairs.
    • Dry cleaning - $0/64.08. This is a category that I completely overlooked in our 2013 budget planning. These are for M's suits for work.
    • Car - $268.88/100. Our car tabs were due. Again, poor 2013 budget planning on my part.
    • Boys (misc) - $27.38/0. S needed ski poles, as he's moved to advanced runs.
    • Boys college - $144/$344. I mistakenly thought my mom had given me money for the boys college accounts for Christmas, & would use her $200 to offset the rest of the cost of the tuition credit.They are each $172.
    • Cleaning - $200/550. This remains a very heated subject at our house. I've gotten M's agreement to try & cut back one cleaning/month. I'll have to be creative about how we schedule it. The other $75 was for a cleaning at our vacation house, after we'd visited a few times.
    • Boys birthdays - $0/26.68. I purchased some party supplies early. This was budgeted, but not for January.
    • Refinance - $0/5787.97

    Phew! Hopefully February (as a short month!) will be filled with lots of opportunities to come in under budget, and will allow me to recalculate all of our "house" expenses, now that the refinance projects are complete. Yeah!

    How did you do in January?