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UFM: On the 11th day, we failed...

January 12th, 2017 at 08:30 am

We had a setback yesterday. It was supposed to be our uber-frugal date night. We were both really excited. Unfortunately, it didn't go as planned...

It started with a phone call at 2:45 from DH. DD1 (his evil stepson as he likes to call him) decided to counter surf for the first time in the new house. He at about 10 milk chocolate truffles and a small box of mixed milk chocolates. The only good thing is that he somehow did that without breaking the large glass bowl they were sitting in.

DD1 happens to have a lead stomach (I could tell some stories about the things he's eaten), so I wasn't overly worried about chocolate poisoning. But it definitely put a damper on things. I got home about 345 and went to take DD1 out to see if he'd go to the bathroom. That's when I noticed the whole back deck around the hot tub was wet. I picked up the lid to see the water level, and yep, the hot tub is somehow leaking.

By that point, DH and I were both in debbie downer moods. He suggested cancelling completely which I agreed to, but that made me even more upset. We decided to just drain the hot tub completely and winterize it that way. Unfortunately, that way involves a wet/dry vac to clean out the pipes/motor pool compartment. We decided to go to Home Depot to rent one, but renting costs $13 and to buy one outright was $24. I'm sure you can see where this is headed...we spent $24 on a wet/dry vacuum that we hadn't planned. While not necessarily a need, it will prevent much more costly damage that would result from the motor pool freezing. As it is, there may already be damage which is why it started leaking in the first place, but I'm trying not to think about that.

On the way out of Home Depot, we saw a Chinese restaurant. Ordering in Chinese and playing board games is one of our favorite homebody dates. DH asked if it would be cheating if he spent his birthday gift card to treat us to Chinese since our dinner plans were ruined. While it doesn't espouse the mindset behind an UFM, at least he wasn't spending money from our bank account or even his own individual bank account. We ended up having Chinese food, playing Battleship, and marathoning 24. Not the worst way to spend an evening, I guess.

The Chinese food leftovers are lunch today for both of us and will be DH's lunch tomorrow. Since I was out of sandwich meat, that worked out okay.

We're going to try again tomorrow evening.

Day 12 about making excuses came just a little late because that's exactly what we did. Life handed us lemons and we went out and bought soda. I'm going to try and remember this lesson in the future. Spending on something to make me feel better in the short-term when things don't go as planned is probably one of my biggest weaknesses.

Budget Check-In

January 11th, 2017 at 06:34 am

I forgot to post my original budgets for January, but I decided to post them here along with my progress so far.

I know there's room for improvement, and I want to make some changes, but I'm trying to focus on one goal at a time. I took all debt payments down to the minimum to try and get a better idea of how much money we actually have left. It's looking like about $500. This month will be the first month in a long time that we haven't actually added any credit card debt. The next two goals will be $1000 in the Savings account and enough in our checking to cover living off last month's income and a $200 buffer. I'm hoping to accomplish these things by March provided nothing comes up that we suddenly have to cash flow.

After that I have a card payoff plan, but I'm trying not to focus on that just yet.

Here's my budget snapshot. I get paid twice a month, so I assign bills to each paycheck based on their due dates. My student loan payments did go up a bit from $155.

Here's our joint budget snapshot. I'm on track to come in well under budget on the Entertainment category. The clothing purchases are documented under Miscellaneous.

Spending Yesterday & Meal Plan for the Week

January 10th, 2017 at 09:30 am

Yesterday's spending was definitely more than anticipated, but still within budget...if that makes any sense. I went ahead and decided to combine this week's $50 and next week's $50 so I could just make one trip. I actually spent $108, but that included an $8 thermal and $35 bag of dog food. I also spent $15 at Goodwill for 2 pairs of jeans for DH. I redeemed $4 back between Checkout 51 and Ibotta.

For the rest of the week, a rough meal plan looks like this:
Today - Spaghetti (OAMC meal)
Tomorrow - Nacho Car
Thursday - Frozen Pizza (Wal-Mart has these really delicious $3 pizzas...probably not the most nutritious thing in the world, but satisfies DH's pizza cravings and easy)
Friday - Tuna Pasta (OAMC meal)
Saturday - Potluck with friends (bringing bacon jalapeno pinwheels)

I know for sure that we have at least another week's worth of dinners. I think we may also have a few remaining MREs on hand, so worse case, we'll work those into the menu.

Since I hadn't planned for the $15 or $7 clothing purchases (I had taken the miscellaneous budget down to $0 in a really ambitious move...), I'm going to take $22 from the last week's $50 and try to get by with only spending $28 that week.

Unfortunately, there was no way to add the beer into the grocery budget, so that $60 is still there. Considering the original party budget was $200, I feel pretty good getting it down to $60.

Lots of Stuff

January 9th, 2017 at 07:00 am

The UFM Challenge is chugging along. DH hasn't spent any money this month. I haven't spent anything outside of the $91, cat litter, and a $5.30 wine purchase for two more bottles for the party. The wine purchase was from the Groupon gift. Since it shipped late, they issued me a $50 off $50 or more purchase with free shipping. Given the prices of the bottles, I had to go slightly over $50. That gives us 14 bottles (7 red, 7 white), so I'm not getting any more wine.

After reading some of the comments on my last post, I feel silly for commenting on the cold. Some of you are dealing with single digits to negative temps. When I said cold, I meant 20's...We did actually find out that we could run the small space heater in the basement with the door closed which would make the room quite toasty. The hard part will be when we decide to do our own things for the evening because DH uses that heater in his office to play video games. At that point, I'll either stick with the heated throw and more blankets or just read upstairs in our bedroom.

We do have some spending planned for today. As I mentioned late last week, the dogs need food (there's 2-cups left which is one meal for one dog). We also discovered Friday that DH needs more thermal shirts and when he wears layers, his jeans are uncomfortably tight. We did wait the 72-hours suggested by Mrs. Frugalwoods, and DH even worked all this weekend, but he really needs a pair or two of larger jeans that will comfortably fit pants under them. We are going to get the thermal shirts and jeans from Goodwill since they'll get beat up outside regardless. DH also wants thermal pants, but those are definitely more of a want since he has military gear and one pair of warm running pants that he can use for this season.

I also started Checkout 51 and Ibotta. I got a $10 bonus through Checkout 51 and need to do my first Ibotta receipt to get that .50 bonus. We apparently go through bread really fast, so we need bread and eggs. I also plan to get a few more of the party appetizers under the grocery budget this week.

DH and I had a really productive weekend. Ever since we moved, it's felt like a never-ending cycle of laundry, but this weekend, we finally caught up (putting away laundry is the worst...)! I also made some phone calls that I'd been putting off, organized the linen closet, cleaned the floors, and got all Christmas and Halloween decorations stored. One of the recent UFM days was about using all of our groceries before getting more, so we tried to focus on that. We cleaned out the bad stuff from the fridge, and I turned 2 celery stalks, a handful of potatoes, a borderline bell pepper, some leftover green beans, and an onion into a pretty amazing soup. DH was really excited to take some for lunch today.

We've decided to wait on the hot tub. We found out that it's wired incorrectly, and the correct breaker box that we'd need runs about $350. The heater board also has a slight burn mark. It may still work, but we won't know until it's properly wired. If that doesn't work, then we'd need a new heater board at about $250 (he said installation is easy enough that we should be able to do it ourselves). DH and I decided to forget about the hot tub until after the fence is in. We do need to buy an incandescent light bulb to put in the motor compartment to prevent it from freezing since we won't be running it, so that's another expense added into today's spending. Even though it's not running, the $150 visit was really fruitful. I learned a ton, including that the hot tub is from 2008-2010 (most likely 2008), costs several thousands upfront and is a steal even if it ends up costing $500 or so to get it running, and will last at least another decade or so with proper upkeep.

DH and I have two events later this week that may present challenges, but he's been pretty committed to this whole month, so I think it'll be okay. The first is date night. DH and I's birthdays are a few weeks (and several years) apart. We both get free movie tickets for our birthdays, so we've decided to go see Rogue One this Wednesday. The challenge will be food. This particular theatre serves full meals, adult beverages, etc. in addition to standard concession fare. To combat this, I'm going to bring one small box of Raisinets (I hate doing it, but I need something for my hands) and a stress reliever toy. We're also going to get food beforehand. One of our favorite Mexican restaurants does a free happy hour nacho bar. Again, we'd normally get a margarita or something to support the restaurant, but this time, we'll just eat our fill of nachos. The other event is a potluck. I normally make lumpia, but since I'm making that next weekend, I'm going to go with pinwheels. Those ingredients will also be purchased under this week's grocery money.

Speaking of date night, we also agreed to go minimal for Valentine's Day. I bought him a .50 card on his birthday, and I told him to skip the flowers/chocolates/gifts. He's happy because that's less effort for him.

One last random thing, one of the pets' Christmas gifts was light up LED collars for $8 each from Groupon. On a day-to-day basis, it's been our best gift. I can see the dogs in the backyard without having to go out there with them. I also use it when walking them later and have gotten people at red lights who asked where they're from.

Free Inspection, Cat Litter Flop, and Other Stuff

January 6th, 2017 at 06:10 am

Day 6 of UFM is getting finances in order. While I do feel like I currently have a system that works for me, there is so much room for improvement that I'd like to do. It seems overwhelming to do at this time. Two things I did implement are Snafu's suggestion to pay cash for everything and tracking everything spent. It'll take some manipulation to get all the payments in an appropriate order to align with our paychecks, but I did start immediately paying off anything charged to the cc's with money in our accounts. I will continue to do this and pay minimums on all accounts until we have $1000 in Savings and can live off of last month's income. We used to live off last month's income, but fell behind with the house and DH's job change resulting in less income. Currently, we pay the mortgage from last month's income, and everything else gets paid from income within the month. It'll take a few months to get to this point and will hinder my debt payoff, but I think it's an important first step if I want to get our finances back on track.

As for the spending yesterday, DH's inspection was free, so the only spending was the cat litter. I failed on two accounts with that expense. First, I also needed dog food, so that will be another spending day, but I'm trying to put it off and will get it when another expense comes up. We're running pretty low though and feed 2 large dogs, so I suspect I will have to cave early next week. I plan to root through ads/do some planning, so I can go ahead and get some of the party foodstuffs with the $50 allotted to groceries for next week. The other flop associated with the cat litter is that I had a $5 PetSmart coupon. It expired on the 2nd which is a bummer because had I planned ahead, I could have used it taking ~30% off the $16 price. I'm terrible about using those PetSmart coupons...

Back to the UFM, our other money saving strategies are going well. We've been sticking to our 5 minute showers and kept the house at 60. It's been challenging, but it's also become kind of a game. DH gets one 10 minute shower at some point this month for his birthday. I've had multiple layers on at all times this week. We have an electric fireplace space heater, but it makes a disturbing noise when on, so we can't run it. I have to look into troubleshooting because if we had it, the basement would be much more bearable.

The last bit of news is that the hot tub is being looked at today. The cost for the visit is $150 which I've already budgeted. DH's dad had connected it, but when we filled it and tried to turn it on, it didn't work. My FIL rechecked the power and everything is good there, so it seems to be an issue with the unit itself. Really hoping we just missed something simple (like the time we tried filling it without plugging the drain plug). It would stink to have gotten a hot tub that's broken. Since it had already been drained, we took them at their word when they said it still ran fine. Their reasoning for getting rid of it was that they were moving to a townhouse and the backyard was small and afforded little privacy. I haven't yet discussed it with DH, but I'm thinking if it's anything more than $200 to get it up and running, then we'll just wait on it.

UFM Day 5

January 5th, 2017 at 08:02 am

I had already done this, so today's an easy day for me. There will be two unplanned expenses today: DH's inspection and cat litter. Both kind of necessary. (I've somehow managed to not clean the litter box once since we moved, so I had no clue it was out...)

With the food we have on hand, I think I can get through next week without doing grocery shopping. Since we had 50 budgeted for groceries, I'm going to move some to pets for the cat litter and push the rest to the following week when I plan on picking up party food.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm going to put all the party food under our regular grocery budget since we have enough food on hand. This should take the party budget down considerably.

DH's lunchbox is really coming in handy. It's not the healthiest meal, but he's had Ramen and a fried egg all week. Both stay hot which is awesome. Today's a big test since it's the first super-cold day in awhile. I also switched the containers around since the noodles kept drying out and DH loves soupy Ramen. Today, I put the noodles and fried egg together in the main bowl and put the soup separate in the little bowl.

I have a bunch of veggies on hand and a few potatoes so this weekend, I'm going to try my hand at some form of soup for DH to have in his lunches next week.

UFM Check-In

January 4th, 2017 at 06:21 am

I've been sick ever since NYE. The good thing about that is that I haven't really made it out to spend money. So far, the only spending has been $91 at Wal-Mart. This included DH's birthday gift (Nerf guns and darts - $30, groceries for the week - $26, allergy medicine - $15, and cash back - $20). I also ordered DH pizza on his birthday totaling $25.

While the pizza wasn't planned, some stuff happened right before DH's birthday. He then shared that his ideal birthday would include pizza, laser tag with friends, and dinner with family. I decided to use my $25 miscellaneous money for pizza and got the Nerf guns in lieu of laser tag (it was too last minute to get a group together). He loved it and that $55 was less than the $80 I had planned for the go-karts.

For the cash back, I'm actually planning to put $18 back in the bank in the next few days. I had money from a cheerleader for competition fees, and I'd use $2 when I needed cash last month, so I had to get the cash to pay it back.

The remaining $41 was from the grocery budget. I actually gave myself $50 each week for groceries, so we're off to a good start (especially considering $15 of that was my allergy medicine).

Groceries and meals are set this week. By my estimates, we have enough dinners for 10-12 meals depending on our appetites already in the freezer. The bread and sandwich meat I brought should last us through most (if not all) of next week, so I shouldn't actually have to touch the $50 grocery money that is budgeted to next week.

For the housewarming, I've been doing some thinking around ways to make it more frugal. One of our Christmas gifts was a groupon for a 12-pk of wine. I chose the mixed box, so I think I'm going to forgo the boxed wine completely and offer those to people instead. I've already bought some of the ingredients for the party food out of my first week's grocery budget ($50), so I'm going to try to continue doing that. If I can purchase all food items for appetizers under the weekly grocery budget, then I think I can get the party budget down to $60 from $200. The $60 would be beer, sodas, and probably the veggie tray.

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2017 at 07:44 am

Wishing everyone a blessed and happy 2017.

DH and I rang in the new year with friends of ours. It was a fun, frugal evening with wine and Settlers of Catan.

Today should be a no spend day. DH is out shooting with his family, and I am home resting since I haven't been feeling well.

DH also decided he wanted to hold off on the go karts until his brothers could join us. If he's okay with it, we'll push that to February.

Uber Frugal Month Prep and Challenges

December 30th, 2016 at 05:34 am

One of the blogs I read (frugalwoods.com) is doing an Uber Frugal Month challenge. I'm going to to make a valiant effort at doing the challenge, but there are several obstacles.

First, the challenges:
1) DH's birthday - DH's birthday is the 2nd. He already usually gets shafted, so I try to make it a big deal. I've discussed it with him, and have it limited to 3 things: an experience (there's an indoor speedway at a nearby mall that he's been dying to try - 3 14-lap races will be $40 each), dinner (we're eating out with his family, so I'm not sure yet if this cost will fall to me), and a physical gift (DH works outside. With the cold weather, I want to invest in a good insulated thermos/food container, so I can give him soups and such to warm him up).
2) Our housewarming - We moved in last November. Given the holidays, we decided to host a housewarming in January. The date had already been set and invites sent when I signed on for the challenge. I'm going to give myself a $200 budget for party things including beer, wine, and 4 appetizers, plus a veggie snack tray. I'm going to do my best to get it under that, but that's a realistic number given the area I live in.
3) Eating out - DH and I tend to just give up and eat out when life gets overwhelming. I'm doing my best to combat this by having meals on hand that require little effort to get to the table.
4) House Stuff - Other than the hot tub, we're going to try and make do with the things we have. Given that we live next to Wal-Mart and 5 minutes from Home Depot, we've gotten into a bit of a habit of just going out and buying it when we find we need something.

In order to tackle the month as best as I can, I've done some prep. DH and I discussed some things we'd like to attempt to be more frugal in. At the end of the month, we'll go back to the things we've missed and nix the rest. The prep work:

1) Cancel Netflix and Hulu. We have Netflix, Hulu, Prime, and Sling TV to cover the shows we're not willing to give up. I'm going to put Netflix and Hulu on hold for the month to see how we make do.
2) Food - we're going to stick to a $50/wk food budget. This should more than cover sandwiches, fruit, and basic ingredients for things like soup and rice and chicken.
3) Water Use - We typically take 15 minute plus showers. We've agreed to limit it to 5 minutes. We'll set a timer to keep us to it.
4) Minimum Payments - I usually pay 5-10 over all the minimum payments, but I think it's hurting rather than helping. I'm going to pay the bare minimum on everything (except the Target card which I'll pay in full) and see what that leaves us with. Based on estimates, we should have anywhere from $30-50 extra to throw at one debt.
5) Eating Out - I bought 2 gift cards for food in December. We have a $25 card to both Firehouse and Papa John's in case the urge strikes, but we're going to do our best to not eat out at all. My boss also gave us a $50 gift card, so that's a future date night at some point.
6) Temperature - We've kept the house at 65 which is much lower than I'd normally prefer. It hasn't been terrible, and this winter's been mild, so we're going to try taking it down to 60.
7) Pets - We've lowered the dogs' food back to their normal levels, so that should help with food cost. We're also pretty well stocked on treats. I was going to get them groomed prior to the party since they smell pretty bad, but we're going to take that on ourselves. Total savings - $110.

Starting Fresh

December 29th, 2016 at 07:26 am

DH and I sat down and had a talk last night, and we are going to really focus on our finances this upcoming year. 2016 was amazing for us, but all the wedding and house expenses really set us back. Not to mention, we really want kids. Here's some tentative thoughts we've laid out:

Tabling the kids discussion until: 1) we eliminate balances on 4 credits cards (did I mention that we really fell hard off that wagon) leaving us with 3 cards that have balances 2) we have $5000 in savings (we currently only have $500)

I'm toying with adding that the total credit card balance across the 3 must be under 10k. Currently, the 3 total $16k. This one is a stretch, so I'm not sure about adding it in.

We have 2 remaining anticipated house projects, and then we're going to hold off on house things for now. The first is fencing. It was always the plan to fence this Spring using our tax refund as the jumpstart on those costs. The other is the hot tub. DH's dad hooked the power up, so all that's left is to fill it and see if it runs. We're also having a technician come out next week for $150 who will run through basic maintenance (how to monitor levels, drain it, change filters, etc.) and check over it. We're currently missing steps, but those cost another $100 for even the cheap ones, so we're going to hold off on that for now.

I think that in January, we can pay off 2 cards (Slate - less than $300 and Target - $250). Hopefully more since we're doing the Uber Frugal Month Challenge.

Done Christmas Shopping!

December 15th, 2016 at 05:10 am

We finished up our Christmas shopping last night. All that's left is to wrap everything and actually order the two credit card rewards gift cards. We did end up spending the $100 at Target. We got his goddaughter's gift, the last of the pet gifts (yes, I know...we're ridiculous for giving our animals presents, but my older dog actually does recognize the stocking and knows that it comes with goodies, so he likes to sit in front of it and stare at it), ice melt for this upcoming winter, and some odds and ends (the popcorn, bread, and envelopes). For those who were wondering, you can buy a gift card with a Target gift card.

Random story: we were looking at pj's because I'd like to start a Christmas Eve tradition where we get pj's and watch a Christmas movie. DH immediately picked out the Darth Vader pajama pants I'd already gotten him. I told him no because we had to coordinate, and he was visibly sad. He knows that I got him pj pants. He even tried them on to make sure they fit (he had his eyes closed). He actually guessed they were Star Wars themed awhile ago. I laughed and said 'who'd want Star Wars pants?' knowing full well the answer was him. His face dropped, so he has no clue he's getting them. He'll be really excited about them. He also ruined his Darth Vader light saber light for the office which I did semi-tell him about. He saw a fancier one in Bed, Bath, and Beyond and pointed it out. I got frustrated and told him to stop ruining all his gifts! He goes 'Really?!?!?' and got really excited, so I know he'll love all of his gifts. He also guessed his big gift: framed movie posters from all 7 movies for his office (the big Michael's boxes gave it away), but I played that one off pretty well, and he doesn't know he got it right.

We couldn't find his parents' gifts at Target, but we were able to get them last night. We found the bed rest pillow thing from Michael's. With my 20% off coupon, it came to $20. For his dad, DH compiled a bunch of smaller things he'd like/need totaling about $50 (paid a little less thanks to a $10 Wal-Mart gift card).

I forgot stamps to mail in DH's computer rebates, so I'll have to get those today.

The last big thing I need to do is Christmas day groceries. So far, my tiny foray into the world of once-a-month-cooking is going well. We've had the spaghetti and chicken dijon and both were really good. Last night and today were supposed to be the meatball sub casserole, but the chicken dijon actually made two meals, and we have a happy hour today with free appetizers that we plan to treat as dinner. Christmas Eve meal is covered by the slow cooker chicken for shredded chicken sandwiches. For Christmas day, we're planning on turkey breast, ham, baked mac and cheese, potatoes au gratin, broccoli cheddar casserole, and rolls with bacon jalapeno pinwheels and deviled eggs as appetizers. I'll need most of those ingredients as I don't have any of that on hand.

Frugal Date Night & Upcoming Uber Frugal Month

December 14th, 2016 at 07:00 am

Tonight is our rescheduled date night to go see the Christmas lights drive through display. The cost is $12/car (it jumps to $25 on the weekend!). I'll never understand why people go then because we drive by it pretty much every day. There's maybe 2-3 cars on the route during the week, but on the weekend, it's stopped traffic. Seems much less enjoyable to me. We're aiming to go around 7:30 to hopefully avoid the frugal families who take their kids during the week (I'm thinking they'd go right around 5/6 to be able to make it home for dinner/bedtimes).

We are also going to finish up our Christmas shopping. At this point, we have one gift card to buy, 2 credit card gift cards to redeem, a bedrest pillow thing, a gift for DH's goddaughter, and something for his dad. We also have a $100 gift card to Target that I'm hoping to use for most, if not all, the gifts. Can you buy a gift card with a gift card?

We're also planning on buying a bag of white cheddar popcorn while at Target. For some reason, I feel like the lights show calls for popcorn and hot cocoa. We're making the cocoa at home, but the popcorn would be cold if we did that, so buying white cheddar popcorn seems like a good compromise. It's certainly better than the $5 small bag they offer at the refreshments stand there.

Next month, I'm doing the Frugalwoods' Uber Frugal Month with a few cheats. One being DH's birthday, and the other being eating out. We got a Firehouse gift card from one of Amazon's deals, and Papa John's has a deal where you get a free large pizza with a $25 gift card purchase. I plan to get that as well with this month's budget. So next month, we'll have 3 opportunities to eat out, but none will come out of next month's money since they've all been bought this month.

Are you doing any sort of January challenge to reset after the holidays?

Holiday Party and Gifts Update

December 12th, 2016 at 06:22 am

We had our holiday party this past weekend. Guess who was lucky enough to win the grand prize? That's right, this girl. Since it's not something I can use (an Apple watch), we will be giving my little brother a very nice Christmas gift. Christmas shopping is almost done. We have a few gifts left: a bed pillow for my MIL, something for my FIL, a gift card for DH's goddaughter's parents, something for his goddaughter, and maybe one more gift each for my mom and older brother. Overall, I think we did pretty well. From the bedroom furniture purchase, we had $45ish in Amazon rewards, so I used that to get coloring books and pencils for each of my 3 closest friends in this area. I also got some cooktop cleaner and scrubbing pads that had been on my list awhile.

The last big purchase was Christmas cards. I never did get around to sending out thank you notes from the wedding (I know...shame on me), but with the move and all the other life changes, it just got away from me. DH has a friend in this area who's working on growing his photography business. He did our engagement shots and is really talented, so we asked for his help with holiday photos. Since it only ended up being an hour-long shoot, he didn't charge us anything, but I would like to get him a $25 gift card as a thank you since he also spends time editing. I read about a hack for using holiday business postcards instead of Christmas cards to make it cheaper. We are getting 100 postcards for $12. I did end up splurging for the rush order though, so that was another $16. Overall though, $30 bucks for 100 Christmas cards is a good deal to me. I'm hoping to have those sent out this weekend.

In the next few weeks, we have a few spendy things planned. Tonight, we're hoping to finish up the shopping. Wednesday, we're doing a drive through light show ($12, plus the popcorn and hot cocoa we bring ourselves). Saturday, we're probably going to visit DH's goddaughter. And Sunday is tentatively decorating our work office (we go all out each year...this year, we're doing The Nightmare Before Christmas). Next week is my big 3-0. I told DH not to make a big deal out of it, but that I do want some sort of date night. I think we're leaning towards Allied at a movie theater that serves dinner food. I'm also really hoping he and his dad come through with the hot tub as that's all I really, really want.

Then, we have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with both of our families. Going to be a hectic few weeks, but filled with lots of good memories.

Does it ever stop?

December 5th, 2016 at 06:03 am

Just when I think things are going to start settling down, they don't.

Here's some of the happenings in rambling form:

New Job: I'd been half-heartedly applying to other jobs. I don't really want to leave my company as I've built a lot of good rapport and flexibility there, but I feel very stagnant. I've been severely underpaid for several years now, and there's just not room for my salary to grow in comparison to how much my skillset has grown. I got a verbal offer late last week and am expecting the written offer this week. My biggest hesitation is that the job is hourly (meaning no PTO or paid holidays), but it's a solid 15k more than what I'm currently making. It would definitely give us a bit more breathing room and allow us to make some progress on paying off debts.

Holidays: I want to thank everyone for their comments on my last post. I'm definitely going to try and focus more on the spirit of the holiday rather than the number of gifts under the tree. That said, we did scrounge up what we could to buy some gifts.

Pet Care: I was delaying bringing the pets in to the new vet where we live because we didn't have the extra funds and they were fine. However, we did have to go in last week. DD1 (dear dog 1 for those who may not remember) has been losing a lot of weight. He's basically a bag of bones. We attributed it to the fact that he's now running top speed for at least an hour and a half daily and upped his food intake to make up for it. Well, when DH was walking him, he decided to check DD1's business and make sure there was nothing alarming there. He found tan and white specks, which according to Google, could be tapeworms. We took him in immediately, but there was nothing in his stool. We gave the go-ahead for bloodwork to make sure those levels were fine, and that was normal as well (except for slight anemia). Total cost was just under $200 for the blood work and float test (the visit was free since it was his first).

Cooking: I spend $160 yesterday on the ingredients for half of a 2-wk. once-a-month-cooking cycle (including several new pantry ingredients that I didn't have). Since this is my first time trying it, and we don't need that much to get us through December, I picked about half of the meals. DH and I will be prepping and cooking them tonight. Since they serve at least 4, we will divide them into multiple serving to get through the remainder of December. Fortunately, one that I chose serves 16-20. On Christmas eve, we will probably have both families over at our place. DH has a tradition that he does every Christmas eve that he wants to start in our new place. So that night, we'll do the slow cooker chicken sandwiches, so we can feed everyone. I still need to get Christmas day groceries, but I'm encouraged that we may be able to stick to our $200/month grocery budget in the future.

I'm sure there's a lot more, but I just can't really brain right now. I'm long overdue for a good hard look at the numbers.

Holiday Shopping

December 2nd, 2016 at 05:23 am

I'm trying so hard to resist the temptation of holiday spending. Being the one who normally makes Christmas happen for my immediate family makes me feel like a failure for not being able to do it this year. I did manage to snag up several things on Cyber Monday for DH and our household, including a carpet cleaner, new filters to revitalize our vacuum, a Star Wars puzzle, posters for all the Star Wars movies (to hang in the office), discounted frames for the posters, pajama pants, and several thermal shirts for DH to wear in the winter (he works outside).

I've portioned out $300 of DH's extra paycheck for him to be able to buy gifts for his family. We also have enough points for 3 gift cards through our Marriott credit card (2 $25 gift cards and a $15 gift card). I also need to get one gift for each of my family members.

I feel bad because we're doing Christmas at our place so everyone can be together again, and my mom is worried DH's family will judge that there's not many gifts from my family. Honestly, I'm a bit worried about that too, but oh well. They are somewhat aware that my family is nowhere near as stable as they are, but I just hope it's not super obvious when their family has tons of gifts to open and mine only has 2-3 gifts for each person.

Wonderful Thanksgiving & Some Financial Updates

November 28th, 2016 at 10:38 am

We had a great Thanksgiving. It was so nice to have our families (minus my little brother) all in one place. I also managed to escape Black Friday mostly unscathed (although there was some Cyber Monday spending today). On Black Friday, I bought 2 video games for DH. He knows this will be a lean Christmas, but I did want to make sure he has at least a few things he wants. He actually conned me into giving him one game already, but the other is with my mom. I told him that I only managed to snag the one game, so he'll be really surprised.

On the money side of things, his parents' generosity continues. They not only bought us a brand new 55 inch smart TV, a popcorn maker, a rotating waffle maker, and a bathroom set (not to mention, these aren't even part of our Christmas gifts because they gave them to us early), but they also forgave the gift they gave us for the house. It was originally intended as a loan, and we had every intention of paying it back further down the road, but they told us not to worry about it. I can only hope that one day, we'll be able to be as generous with our kids.

2 other things we've decided to hold off on for now are the Costco and YNAB memberships. Each runs about $50, but we have workarounds for now. I still have a BJ's membership until next August. Costco is around the corner whereas BJ's is about a 10-15 minute car ride. I still have YNAB4, so even though I find the import transactions feature so convenient, I will go back to the old way for now.

Something of a spending fast

November 23rd, 2016 at 06:52 am

We've implemented something of a spending fast. We're not spending nothing completely, but we are going to be very scrupulous in our purchases.

I wasn't very good about tracking our cash flow purchases which made things a little wonky this month. The only miscellaneous spending currently on the books will be DH's XMas gift (he wants a game that is normally $60, but will be on sale Black Friday for $25-$30). December is DH's 3 paycheck month. As much as I'd like to be able to do half-savings/half-debt, there's too much happening right now, but starting next year, it will be that way.

This 3rd paycheck will go to helping us catch up on living on last month's income with $300 going to DH to pad his bank account/use for Christmas gifts.

I do feel like he's trying to get on board with the whole cutting back thing, so it's nice to feel like I'm not alone in this.

Productive Weekend and Big Week!

November 21st, 2016 at 06:25 am

I had a very good weekend. DH was away at drill, so I took the weekend to recharge my batteries and get things done. It was a really good mix of busy and relaxing. Some of the things I got done were: dishes, laundry, unpacking a few more boxes, breaking down all the empty boxes, gathering all the recycling and trash, moving the pet things to their proper place, sweeping, and vacuuming. The house is in pretty good shape for Thanksgiving which is great news given that it's our first time hosting!

I'm both excited and nervous. The only sad thing is that I found out my brother has to work, so he won't be joining us, but everyone else from my and my husband's immediate families will be with us. Our moms and myself split the menu up, so the pressure won't all be on me. My mom is going to make the turkey as I've only tried it once and it didn't turn out well.

Our bedroom furniture arrives this morning. Besides that and 1 or 2 more cans of paint, we've decided no more unnecessary purchases for now. We're going to do our best to make do with what we have on hand.

Money is tight right now, so it's going to be a meager holiday, but so special because we're in our forever home for our first Christmas as a married couple! Today also happens to be our 6 month anniversary, and I feel so blessed even if our financial situation is a little tight right now.

Weekend Recap

November 14th, 2016 at 08:02 am

I had a very good weekend. The plan had originally been for DH and I to drive up to Boston together with the dogs to visit my best friend from college. She's the one who gave me DD1 and she has one of his brothers, so we try to get them together a few times a year.

Given everything that had been happening lately, we decided it would be best if I went up alone with DD1 and DH would stay at home with DC and DD2 and work on unpacking/set up.

Outside of driving and snacks, I didn't spend any money. My hosts generously comped our meals out and we also ate several meals in. It was a very fun, low-key weekend. We took the dogs to the dog park both mornings. Saturday afternoon, we had lunch with one of my other college friends and then just hung out. Saturday night, we rented The Jungle Book (really dark for Disney) and then had a campfire out back with drinks and s'mores. Sunday morning, we had brunch and then I headed back.

Some car issues did pop up on the trip (both for me and DH). DH had a flat tire. He has tire protection, but it wasn't covered since he hit the curb. He has really nice sports tires which cost $260. We did get a break on the labor though, since FIL's friend has a shop. I'm taking my car in there later today. On the drive back, my check engine light came on and remained on the rest of the drive. I'd thought it had to do with my oil since I was pushing the oil change before the 8-hr. drive. I added some oil since it was low, and bought an extra quart just in case ($10). My check engine light didn't come on this morning, but since this car needs to last another 2-3 years, I want it fully checked.

Unfortunately, DH didn't do any of the things he'd planned and instead spent the weekend recharging his batteries as well.

So this week will be our organizing week. I have 2-3 weeks before the winter cheer season starts, so we should both be home by 4/5 every day. Today, we have to do groceries and plan for hosting next week, but we also need to spend an hour or two each day unpacking boxes and finding proper homes for everything.

Adventures in Home Ownership

November 7th, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Well, we are officially moved in. It's been a very spendy few weeks, and I anticipate there will only be more.

A couple of highlights from the weekend include:
- losing our cat (she found her way in to the utility room and was hiding behind the hamper)
- the skunk who sprayed on our front porch causing the whole entryway to smell
- the stink bug who took up residency on our shower curtain and scared the living daylights out of me while I was hanging it
- enjoying a drink in our sunroom

A couple of frugal wins:
- getting a nice, new-to-us dining table from DH's parents that seats 6 and looks great in our dining room
- ordering pizza instead of eating out for all of the people who helped us move
- having DH's parents pay for the painter to come 2 more days and finish out the painting (not sure this really counts as a win, but it was generous of them and saves us money)

Not-so-frugal things:
- the paint was nowhere near enough and (as I suspected) there were some labor costs for FIL's friend to paint (another $350 in paint and $300 in labor)
- one of the lights went out and we decided to slowly switch to LED bulbs ($8 for 4 bulbs) and ended up getting a pantry LED light as well ($10)
- forgetting to use a 40% off Papa John's coupon when ordering pizza

Food and TV

November 2nd, 2016 at 05:03 am

I spent my fun money last pay period on a cookbook. I'd decided I didn't need it quite yet, but a week and a half later, it was still very much on my mind. It was only $13 which is technically half of my fun money. It's the Family Favorites edition of Once a Month Cooking. It very thoroughly lays out meal plans, shopping lists, materials, prep order, and meal cooking/assembly order. There are 2 4-wk. cycles, 2 2-wk. cycles, a Gluten-Free cycle, a summer cycle, and a fancy meals cycle. We've already decided which 2 wk. cycle to try first. Given that the meal sizes are anywhere from 4-12 servings, I think that we could easily stretch a 2-wk. cycle to a month (or at least pretty close to it). Since DH has weekends free now, we've committed to trying out this new way of cooking. DH makes it home in plenty of time to make dinner, and while he's an amazing chef, I don't think he's the biggest fan of cooking meals that take longer than 30ish minutes. I think OAMC will help a ton since he'll just have to reheat the meal and maybe make a quick side. I'm also hoping this will help us to keep our grocery spending down.

For TV, DH and I have decided to try a few different things. We're going to cut cable. We are getting Fios Internet only in the new place. Our biggest TV needs at the moment are soccer (DH is a big fan), Designated Survivor, 24 (we're marathoning it since I've never seen it and DH loves it), The Walking Dead, and Reign. To meet those, we have Hulu (5.99/mo), Netflix (10.99/mo), Amazon Prime (99/yr.), and we are adding in SlingTV (24.99/mo). I prepaid the 3 months upfront in order to get a free Roku streaming stick. We have one Chromecast, but 2 TVs, so this way, both will be entertainment enabled. I'd like to look into cutting Netflix, but it would have to be after finishing Reign. I also want to look into the Mohu Leaf once we get settled. If we can invest in one upfront, then I could get rid of Hulu since we only need it for Designated Survivor. That would just leave us with Prime and SlingTV which I think we could learn to live with.

Crazy Week Updates

November 1st, 2016 at 10:08 am

Today's probably the easiest day. Yesterday, we officially started moving things in. We also bought the paint which came out much cheaper than I thought ($125). To me, it doesn't seem like enough paint, but my FIL has been doing this a long time and I trust his judgment. We didn't have too many Trick or Treaters, but I think that's because we left about 745 to make it home in time for our 815 house showing. They loved the place and are likely going to reach out today about speaking with the landlord. Unfortunately, they don't plan on moving until December which wouldn't really help with getting our move-out fee back.

Tomorrow DH has a doctor's appt. and I will be showing the place at 4 pm. I'm waiting to hear back about another potential showing later this week as well. Thursday and Friday will be small moving days and back-to-back appointments for a quote to service the fireplace.

I'm really hoping we get a resolution soon for the current place. I had planned to make some extra small payments to the credit cards, but I may have to divert those funds to pay for the small things we're doing in the new place (like the paint). If one of the other potentials works out and moves in sooner, that would give us some extra cash to work with.

On a separate note, we absolutely love the house!!

The Crazy Week is Here!

October 31st, 2016 at 04:42 am

I just have to make it through this week. On the docket are moving small things throughout the week, painting samples on the walls today to see if we like the paint we picked (our painter's wife had a baby Saturday, so we didn't end up painting this past weekend), handing out candy to our new neighbors (!), medical appointments for both DH and I, painting (well, overseeing painting), two more house showings for the current place, cheer practice prep for their upcoming showcase, and Verizon hookup.

Wish me luck...

Mental Health Day and Upcoming Weekend

October 28th, 2016 at 09:00 am

Yesterday, I took a mental health day. Took PTO, brought the pups over to the dog park and then spent the afternoon relaxing and watching Netflix until cheer practice. There was an altercation at practice that made my blood boil a bit, but overall, I feel much better rested and prepared to tackle the upcoming challenges.

Since posting on Zillow, we've gotten a handful more responses about the current place. We have a few showings scheduled in the next week and hoping to set up a few more in the next day or two. I haven't totally given up hope. We have until the 20th to try and find someone, so I'll keep trucking along.

I'm out of one allergy medicine. I'm going to just refill it at CVS and after the move, I'll look into transferring all my prescriptions to home delivery. I also have to schedule an appointment with my doctor to get a new prescription since the other medicine was $150 (even after insurance was applied)!

I scheduled the UHaul for next Saturday. It should run no more than $120, but I'm hoping to come in at considerably less (~$80).

The previous owners are officially out as of Wednesday. They had to give us 3 days' notice of an early vacate date, so the official house handover is tomorrow. We'll owe them prorated rent for Sat., Sun. and Mon totaling about $230.

DH put his name up for overtime this weekend, so hopefully they'll schedule him for both Saturday and Sunday. Since this job requires early hours, he should be done by 230/3 and we'll still have plenty of time together in the evening. Tomorrow morning, I'm meeting my FIL at the house. We'll go over paint samples, and he's going to give me an estimate on the painting. I'm leaning towards just doing the master bedroom for now, but we'll see what the cost estimate is. He's not working this weekend, so he wants to go to Home Depot and get started on the painting that afternoon. I'll help if he wants it, and tomorrow evening, we're going to bring the dogs over so they can start acclimating to the house. Sunday, we have a tentative 4 pm showing and I'm hoping to set up at least 1 more at 6 pm if the timing works for them.

Monday night, we'll hand out candy at our new home!

In a Funk

October 26th, 2016 at 07:06 am

Things are just getting to me. I feel so unsettled, and while I don't seem particularly stressed, I think it's definitely affecting me. I was so distracted that I missed a regular meeting yesterday morning.

In addition to the move, sorting out finances/health insurances, and DH's new job, we found out about a potential medical problem. We're getting it checked next week, but hopefully, it turns out to be nothing.

I paid my first mortgage payment this morning. Apparently, the company my mortgage was sold to isn't the best when it comes to managing things, so I'd really like to stay on top of it.

We thought we'd found a tenant for our current place last weekend, but when we sent her over to the landlord, he said her paperwork wasn't looking good. He has yet to give me an official answer, but I'm guessing it's no. I renewed the posting again, but nothing yet. It's looking like we may be on the hook for $1000 with the other $1000 being our security deposit. Fortunately, it's already funded and set aside in YNAB.

The other big thing we're currently dealing with is painting. We'd really like to get the place painted before we settle in and start moving bigger furniture over. DH's dad is going to come look at the place with us this weekend and give us an estimate. We have a bunch of paint chip samples and have already picked some color combos that we want.

I just can't wait to be in the place already...with the hot tub set up and glass of wine in hand.

Stress and other things

October 21st, 2016 at 06:05 am

DH had me measure my heartbeat to determine my stress level on his phone last night because the headache was back. It was right about to cross into the red zone, while his was only about 1/3 of the way up well in the green. I know those things aren't accurate, but wow. He suggested I get away by myself for a few days, but I don't think that will necessarily help. All the stresses will still be here when I get back. Plus, there's too much going on right now. We did agree that he would start giving me some space though. I love having him home, but I realized that when he came home late, those evenings were my recharge time. I'd watch silly television comfortably on the couch without any judgment. Now that he beats me home, I don't feel like I can just veg out on the couch, and the second TV is upstairs in the spare bedroom and just not as comfy.

I do think it'll be better in the new place as we plan to move the TV back into our bedroom. That way, I'll have my own place to retreat and recharge without hogging the TV connected to the gaming system.

For food, we're doing well. I did have to spend another $30 that I took from other categories. I got eggs, bread, strawberries, bananas, grapes, ground beef, and wonton wrappers. Of the first 5 items, we're on track to have it used up by the end of next week. We each take sandwiches every day, DH usually has an egg sandwich for breakfast, and the fruit helps round out our lunches. The ground beef and wonton wrappers are going to be used tomorrow to make lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) for a Halloween potluck we're going to. I'm debating dying the dipping sauce red, so it's like fingers and blood or something ridiculous like that.

For moving, I still need to schedule the truck (which I'll do after this entry). We're going to use our spare time this weekend to focus on packing. During the last move, we just used a lot of bags that we have to throw stuff into. I'd like to pack several of these smaller bags in boxes to minimize the back and forth. The guy who gave us a hot tub is also giving us a couch. We're picking it up tomorrow and dropping it off at the house since we have no room for it.

Lastly, just a funny story to share: My dog (DD2 - the GSD/husky rescue) decided to lock me out of the house yesterday morning. I was walking DD1 and she must have jumped up and pushed the lock down. After unsuccessfully trying to get her to jump and push it back up, I was finally able to borrow a screwdriver, pop out my front screen, and get into the house. Fortunately, the windows were unlocked from a few weeks back when I turned on the toaster oven and didn't realize it was burning some spilled leftovers on the bottom pan. That now marks 2 times that I've had to break into my own home. Luckily, we have 2 large, scary dogs to deter anyone else from trying it.

November Planning

October 20th, 2016 at 11:01 am

A few weeks ago, I had mentioned a couple of stretch goals that I wanted to try and reach: funding the back-out fund, prorated rent, and new mortgage, plus paying off one credit card at $831.

Since my budget hasn't fully been firmed up, I found out I was missing some things/some estimates were off, and it looks like I way overanticipated what we could do. Currently those funds look as follows:

Mortgage - $2400 (fully funded and then some as the actual mortgage is $2370.xx)
Prorated Rent - $1123 (fully funded and covers rent through 11/10)
Rent Back-Out Fund - $67.xx

Tomorrow, we have $1568.xx coming in. This would technically allow us to finish out the rent back-out fund and pay off the credit card if I combine it with debt funds I have in my own account.

However, after thinking it through more, I think my problem is that I'm so busy trying to throw money at debt that I'm not accounting for what I actually have to spend so I then have to use cards for those things...

So I've decided not to pay off the $831 card in full. I will throw all of my own debt funds (~290) at it to make a decent dent, but I will keep the remaining $600ish in our account to put towards next month's budget. That puts us a little short on living on last month's income, but we're almost there.

Once we move, the dust should settle and I'll have a better idea of consistent numbers moving forward.

Migraines and Medicines

October 18th, 2016 at 07:28 am

Lately, I've been having really bad migraines. They only seem to come in the evening and they feel dull/far away in the mornings. I'm not sure if it's dehydration, stress, or something else. They've been accompanied by a slightly nauseous feeling, but I find that once I eat dinner, the nauseous feeling goes away.

Starting 10/1, I switched to DH's insurance with the Army Reserves. However, I found out yesterday that my birth control isn't covered at retail facilities. One of my allergies is actually a dollar and change cheaper, but the 3-month generic birth control rang up at $150!!! Turns out, it is covered, but it's 50/mo at retail facilities. The home delivery option is 49/mo, so not any better. I'm going to call the military pharmacy tonight and see if they carry it as it is free at military pharmacies, but there was a note that the pharmacy may not carry it.

Once I get that sorted, I'm going to see about signing up for the home delivery option for all my maintenance meds except the birth control. When I visit my OBGYN early next year, I'm going to find out if there might be a better option that won't require me to drive 45 minutes to base just to get it.

Utilities, Pantry Eat-Down, and Moving Updates

October 17th, 2016 at 06:05 am

I can't believe we're down to just two weeks! The plan is to start packing nightly over the next two weeks. Almost everything is in boxes already, but we do have a little bit to do. The goal will be to have everything packed by the 30th.

I've called the water and electric and set those up to start the 1st. I haven't set up any disconnect notices yet though. I'm still hoping we can get someone in here and avoid the fee, but if not, then around 11/10, I'll call and have everything set to disconnect on the 20th (our official vacate date).

We need to figure out the move though. We can start moving things in Nov. 1st, but that's the middle of the week. I think we're going to move a few boxes/things each evening and move all the large furniture on the 5th. This way, we should only need the truck 2 hrs.

Eating down the pantry is going a little too well. I think I can get through this week with the remaining stuff in the freezer, but then we'll need food for next week. I'm going to try and stretch it though. I do know that I need eggs (and we may need bread/1 thing of milk). We've been doing very simple breakfasts/lunch, but they require a lot of bread/eggs/milk. Worst case, we do have a box of MREs, so I'm going to try and alternate those into the remaining meals I have planned, so we're not stuck eating MREs for a week straight next week. I'm also going to get a few frozen pizzas if I can find them on sale. They're not the healthiest option, but it's better than eating out. I do also have a bogo Chipotle offer if we do decide to resort to eating out.

I've been using YNAB again. I think it's helping as we've turned down several offers for activities/eating out since those categories are already filled. There's about $40 left in the stuff I forgot to budget for category. I'll have to remember to add some budget money in for moving expense in Nov.

Update on Rent Back-Out Fund and other money things

October 14th, 2016 at 09:22 am

Our rent back-out fund is at $1397 in our accounts. I'm thinking we're going to have to pay it as we haven't had anyone solid other than the first guy who had his move-out date wrong. (Side rant: Why are people so rude? If you change your mind or are no longer interested, I don't care, but at least have the courtesy to say thanks, but no thanks rather than just being completely unresponsive!) I also have to add $300 from my account and $234 from a check at home which will bring us to $1931. The last $69 will be funded with DH's last check from his old job.

That check was mailed, so I'm thinking we'll get it early next week. It should be in the $2000 range, so the remainder will jump-start November's mortgage payment.

My $800 will finish it out and start November's rent in our current place through the 20th. We'll need my first paycheck from November to finish out that fund. All other payments have already been accounted for for the remainder of October. We'll probably be a little short with living on last month's income, but I'm hoping to boost that up next month.

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