Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy 4th of July

Every year for the 4th of July, we always grill out and let off our own fireworks. This year is going to be a little different. We are going to have snack food and let off our own fireworks. Since our oven is still broken we are tired of using the grill. Instead of having hamburgers and hot dogs again, we are going to have chips and dip, popcorn shrimp, etc. This should be a nice break.

We have decided to make an attempt to fix the oven and ice maker on our own (with a little help from some friends). Hopefully, we can get them working without spending a fortune. The nice part will be the get together.

One of my favorite ways to save money and time is to get organized. I have found that the more organized the house is, the fewer things I need to purchase. I have also found that donating extra items is a great way to maintain the organization. I have taken about four car loads of stuff to donate so far this summer and I have only gone through about 1/4 of the stuff that I need to go through. Sometimes donating stuff is really difficult, because of the emotional attachment to the "stuff", the simplest way to get past that feeling is to continue to tell myself that someone else may really need the item, or that someone else may really love this "stuff".

There are only a few things that I continuously struggle with to save money: the most difficult to overcome is the shopping. I do love shopping. I have to continually remind myself that acquiring new things is not the way to build up our savings.

Hope that everyone has a great 4th!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Insurance Shopping

Once every couple of years, I begin the dreaded task of getting new quotes on my Auto and Homeowner's Insurance. I begin by reviewing my current policies and the price that I am paying. Next, I put calls out to multiple agencies and request quotes. I run a comparison to ensure that we are continuing to get the best coverage for the lowest cost. It is a little daunting, but I know that we always have the best deal around.

Just keeping these companies honest...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Staying Ahead of the Curve

It seems that no matter how much you try to save money, as soon as you think that you are getting ahead, something comes up. This time it is our oven, it has totally stopped working. I am not certain what the problem is, so I definitely will have to call a repair person. I am not looking forward to that bill.

At least I have a few money saving opportunities to suggest.

First, Netflix has been saving us about $50 per month. We were once a month renters; however, we would rent all the new releases on that once a month visit. Now we get Netflix (there are various rates depending on how many videos you want to receive), with our program we get instant streaming video (there are various ways to get this streaming on your TV).

Second, we have begun to save more money on groceries. We have started by using as many store brand products as possible and are working on limiting pre-packaged foods. We have reduced out grocery bill by $50 per week for the past two weeks. We will have to continue to work on it to maintain the level of savings. (We have, also, really started saving and eating left-overs.)

Third, we are clearing out the clutter. Just by trying to maintain the reduction of clutter, we have reduced the purchases made. Keeping in mind that everything at some point becomes clutter, we have been able to limit the small purchases that seem to add up to larger ones.
If anyone has any tips to share, please add them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer days

I just found this great article about saving money:

There is a lot of great information here.

Some of these tips are fabulous, I am definitely going to try some of this. I would love to be able to adjust our life style so that we could live on one income.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lazy Summer Days

Well, we have finished decorating both of my daughters' rooms and we have set up the guest room. We found a great couch-bed, we were looking for one that was comfortable and affordable. We found it at Cost Plus World Market, here is a photo of it.

It worked out very well, I signed up for World Market's Explorer Program and they sent me a coupon for 10% off, so I used that on the purchase. I was able to save some money that way.

It is funny, we set it up as an extra TV room and now someone is constantly in there watching something or playing on the Wii. We had to make sure that there was enough room to play, but it worked out well. We had an old dresser in the garage, which we cleaned up and put new hardware on. It looks great. Then we moved in a little coffee table and two small book shelves that we had. The room turned out beautifully. It is nice when we can use the stuff that we have hanging around the house to set up a nice room.

Now, I must get busy sorting the mountain of stuff that I brought home from school. I can't believe how much stuff I had in my classroom. I was able to stack it more neatly in the family room, and only take up half of the room. That allowed us to use the other half of the room to set up the desk and the computer stuff. There are a few pieces in the stack that need to be given a permanent home in the family room so that they are actually usable.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer is Here

Well, Summer is finally here and I immediately got sick. I am getting ready for "Summer" Cleaning and redecorating. I am getting ready to redecorate my girls' bedrooms. Both girls have decided on a theme and now we have to figure out how to implement them. I do not spend much money on redecorating, so we have to be creative in our design. Currently, we have selected paint and have decided how to reuse a couple of pieces in the house. Often by re-purposing some pieces we can save some money. I know that my kids are a lot like me, they can only handle a design for a few years before updates must be made.

We are going out today to buy paint for both bedrooms, I have found that paint is the cheapest way to change the look of a room and right now True Value has a buy one get one sale on paint, so we are going to check out there first.

Last week, we made some food to freeze so that we could have a few quick meals over the next month. Lasagna is my contribution, I love my easy recipe.

1 package "no-boil" lasagna noodles
1 16oz container ricotta cheese
4 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 jar of spaghetti sauce
1 cup of water
1 lb of ground beef
1 can of sliced mushrooms
1 fresh garlic
1 onion chopped

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In skillet, brown ground beef, garlic, and onion. Add mushrooms, sauce and water. Set aside.
In large bowl, blend ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese.
In 9x12 casserole dish, spread sauce mixture to lightly cover the bottom of the dish, then layer (in order) 3 noodles, 1/2 the cheese mixture, then 1/3 of the remaining sauce mixture, repeat.
Next, add final layer of noodles, then remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
Cover with foil.
Bake for 1 hour.
Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes.

That is it.
Easy and delicious.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It is almost Summer

For a teacher, summer is a big deal. I have been looking forward to it since oh....August. I will finally have some free time to do things, like find new money saving ideas and keep up my blog on the topic.

I do have some new information. My 17 year old got her first job and so far she absolutely loves it. We had to trade in the car that we had gotten for her, it just became too expensive to repair. So we traded it in on a new car for my husband and then she is using his old car. (I say old, but it is really only 4 years old. Newer than my car.) The Washington DC trip has been canceled, so no free vacation for me, but we are still looking into taking a vacation over the summer. I am still trying to save for landscaping the back yard, I know that will be huge bucks.

We have been looking into new flooring, I am currently thinking about cork.....Does anyone know anything about this type of flooring? From what I have found, it is more expensive than carpet, but cheaper than hard wood. I will have to continue to do research.

I finally got all 6 chairs for my dining table. That is a bonus (paid for in cash). I just need to figure out what to do with the family room area, I change my mind daily. I have to do something with it over the summer. I promised my husband that I would get it all cleaned out and clean out the garage. I am certain that I will at least get this started......

I have to go for now, grading to do. Love to all and I will write again soon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A long time

Wow, it has definitely been a long time since I have posted. Best laid plans and all. I seem to have gotten so busy, so quickly. I finally have some down time and can't am patiently awaiting summer. As soon as I think that I have our finances figured out, something comes up that requires cash. Some unplanned expenses and the budget is shot. I know that we will be able to recover; however, the process seems to take forever.

I am continuing to search for methods of saving money. We are still investigating television services. Hopefully we can figure out the best service with the lowest price. But we shall see. The few things that we have been able to work out, seems to continue to work. I hope that I will be able to keep saving and continue to expand our savings.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Second Look at the Budget

Today, I began taking a second look at our budget. I believe that we should be able to pay off a few of these credit bills by June. That will really work if we don't plan to take a family vacation this summer.

Well, I am looking forward to reducing our debt. I think that I have a good plan set up and I just have to stick with it. The good news is that we should be able to have most of our debt paid off by the end of the year; however, I still need to find methods to reduce our monthly living expenses. One thing that I am interested in (and have been for a while) is solar panels. I know that the expense is great, but I think that it will most definitely pay off. I just have to find our more information.

We have made it through month one and we are well into month two. I still have to figure out some other methods of saving money. I know that I must continue to think about new ways to reduce our use. Not much else going on these days. I think for me the best method to save money is to not go shopping.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

January is over

I have not been keeping up on posting as much as I want to. I started doing our taxes today and it looks as though we actually owe money. This is the first time ever. I then looked at our withholding amounts and they have dropped substantially. I suppose that explains why we now owe money.

Why is it that as soon as I think I am getting a handle on the finances, something comes up that costs money. In attempting to save money, I feel as though I am actually spending more. I suppose that I will simply have to be even more cautious. I think that finding better methods to save will prove the best method.

I got Tim a book on investing and I think that it is very well written, it explains concepts in everyday language. I think that the information will definitely come in handy as soon as we have some discretionary money.

I continue to search for tips that will help in changing our saving habits, yet not detract from our quality of life. I have found some, but one thing that I need to employ all of them is time. I suppose finding more time in the day is like finding more money in the paycheck. I don't see either happening any time soon.

For now I am getting together some stuff to donate to Big Brothers, Big Sisters of New Mexico. It is nice when they come out and pick stuff up. So much easier to simply get bags together and put them out on the curb.

I just found out, this week, that my younger daughter needs braces. We already got them for my older daughter, now we get to go through it again. This time, the orthodontist wants more than last time. I have to do some Orthodontist Price Shopping. It would be wonderful if we could get her braces done for about the same price.

Yesterday we went to get the oil changed in my older daughter's car, we had to get an Oil System Flush as well. There are a few things we need to get fixed on her car. I suppose that we will have to take care of things one at a time. The next thing to get fixed is her tail light, one of them is out. I also need to find a good after market body shop so that we can get her moon roof repaired.

It seems as though things continue to pile up; however, there are a few things that have been taken care of. I have most of the papers in the house shredded and have a plan for keeping them under control. The Dining Room is almost done and looks great (I still need to find 2 captain's chairs that I like, but that can wait). I was, also, able to fix a crack in the wall and re-caulk the dining room. There are some other small projects that need completed, but I will get those taken care of over time.

Love to all! Have a great money saving start to your week.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What a long week

This has been a really long week. It went by so fast that I haven't even had the opportunity to post. A bunch of stuff happened this week:

I painted the dining room and it looks great.
I refinished my big mirror to match my table.
The lady who bought the hutch came to pick it up.
I got a second chair for the living room.

My husband keeps getting on my for spending money when I am supposed to be saving. I keep telling him that this is a process. I have to have an organized place to start. I am trying to get everything in the house organized so that I have the organization to respect the money that we are getting.

I continue to think that once I have the house totally clean and organized I will be able to concentrate on finances. I really need to learn how to invest. Hopefully, it will not end up being as confusing as it seems. I think that my biggest problem is the fear that I do not understand money and investing. I have to change my mind set if I want to really save.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cleaning is Therapudic

I have been cleaning and clearing clutter all last week and this week. Yesterday, I finally shredded all of those papers hanging about. I hope I can keep it up.

I have settled on a style to clear up some of the paper mountain. I am going to keep the bills in my center desk drawer and shred the old bill as soon as the new bill comes in showing the previous one paid. Hopefully, this will work.

I had a little bit of a back slide yesterday on the budget issue. I did just a little bit of shopping that I probably should not have done, although I did only buy a few items for the house, which is an improvement. I got curtain rods and curtains for the dining area. I will post a picture once I get it all set up.

Today, I got up on the ladder and cleaned one of the upper cabinets in the kitchen. When I was taking down the holiday stuff, I noticed that they were very dusty. I think that I am going to try to clean at least one more this evening and leave the other for tomorrow. I did get one side of the Plexiglas sealed together, it has to cure for 12 hours so I will have to wait to do the other side until tomorrow.

So far, so good. I have to remember to take one day at a time on the budget. It seems as though as soon as I get a plan to cut spending, some expense comes up that cuts into my plan. I guess I will have to continue to work on it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Baked Ziti is a hit

We made Baked Ziti tonight and it was fabulous.
Here is the recipe that we used:

First Roast 3 red bell peppers
1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Cut peppers in half lengthwise; discard the seeds and pith.
3. Place peppers in one layer on large pan.
4. Broil, 4 inches from heat for 5 minutes on one side (or until quite charred)
5. Turn and cook until second side is charred
6. Place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap and cool.
7. Peel and discard skins.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cups water
14 1/2 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
6 oz can tomato paste
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 pound ziti
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
3. In skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat, add onions; cook stirring, until softened (2 minutes). Add water, tomatoes (with liquid), tomato paste, parsley, oregano, and basil. Break up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Slice roasted peppers.
5. Drain pasta, return to pot, but do not heat.
6. Stir the tomato sauce, roasted bell peppers, 1 & 1/2 cups of the mozzarella, the Parmesan, and sun-dried tomatoes into the pasta pot.
7. Spoon into a 9 X 12 baking dish. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over top.
8. Bake 20 minutes or until heated through and the cheese has melted.

I found this great web site for investment information, for those of us who are invest-mentally challenged.

I went out today and got my refund for my chairs and then was able to get the other two for the sale price.

I also created a budget in excel, where I will record all of my spending every day. I hope that I can keep that up. I have begun going through all of my papers. I always have trouble keeping the paper under control. I am trying to come up with a system that I can maintain that will cut the paper clutter. I do have a filing cabinet, but I have a difficult time getting all of these papers filed.

If anyone has any paper control suggestions, please let me know. At this point I am open to any paper organizing ideas.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Weekend is Here

Today my daughter had her birthday party, 17, I can hardly believe it. She had a couple of friends over for food, conversation and a few rounds of video games. I ordered Sushi and a party sub for food. I think that they had fun.

I found this web site today and I thought some of the tips were good:
12 Steps to Being a Zen Millionaire

So, I had to figure out how to protect my carved table now that it is in the dining area. I do not want it to be ruined by use. I had checked on getting a glass top to protect it, I just can't afford that. I thought that Plexiglas would work.

I went to the hardware store and tried to buy a piece for it and the largest pre-made piece is 72" X 36" @ $45. Well, wouldn't you know that my table is 72" X 39". The assistant there was a great help, he helped me figure out that if I bought three smaller pieces ($18 each) and cut the long end to 39" that I could piece them together to get the 72" length. I got some sealant and will seal the joints tomorrow. Then, the table top will be completely protected.

Putting this table in the dining area has completely changed the feel of the room. We actually want to eat there, just because the table top looks so cool.

I am going tomorrow to get the price adjustment for the two chairs that I bought yesterday and will pick up two more. Now that these chairs are on sale, I can afford to get the other two. I am still on the hunt for two larger arm chairs that match.

Today's grocery bill was roughly the same as last weeks, although we did buy laundry detergent and a large bag of dog food. We, also, got a few extra dinners. This is so that we can stock our pantry and have food for those nights when I do not feel like cooking. I am still waiting for the food bill to drop drastically, this might be a very long wait.

Tomorrow I am going to try my new cooking hands at Baked Ziti. If it turns out well I will post the recipe.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The end of the first week

Well I have successfully made it through week one.

I sold my kitchen table and chairs on craigslist and used the money to buy two of the chairs for my cool table. We moved the table into the eating area and were able to put my desk in the living room.

While I was paying for my chairs, the sales clerk told me that the chairs would go on sale on Sunday for $20 off each. I will go back on Sunday and get my price adjustment and then I will have almost enough for another chair.

Tomorrow is my daughter's birthday party. I have to pick up the food at 1:00 and the kids will show up at 2:00. I think that she is excited although with her you just never know. Teenagers!?!?!?

I have to go through my sale items for next week and plan the menu, my menu planning worked out very well this week. I am excited to continue to see if I can keep our food bill decreasing. It should be interesting.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back to it

Today everyone is back to work or school.

Tried out Ratatouille last night, wasn't impressed with the recipe. I guess I will have to try out some different ones. That is what happens when I try the easy recipe. I have a couple of others that I may try out.

I am still working on getting the house organized, hopefully that will not all year. If I can work on one thing at a time, I should be able to get through it all.

The best part of saving is having to be creative. I have so many ideas I hope that I can work them all in.

I have an idea to paint the dining area off of the kitchen and then to hang curtains. I think that I have found the material to use for the curtains from some that I have had hanging around the house. Now that I have to think outside the store for some things, being a bit of a pack rat is going to come in handy.

I know that I can creatively get the house looking great and organized.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Preparing for the Grind

Well, today is the last day of Winter Break. Back to work tomorrow.

I have been attempting to find other means to cut back.

I did spend some money today, my husband and I both got our hair done and I had to fill up my car with gas. Lucky for me a tank full of gas usually lasts around a month.

I am getting ready to begin dinner. I found an amazing recipe for roast chicken.

1 Whole Chicken (4-5 lbs)
1 Lemon
1 onion, peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled
thyme or rosemary
olive oil
sea salt
black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Put chicken in a roasting pan. Cut onion into quarters and put in cavity. Put garlic and herbs in also (no need to chop). Cut lemon in half, squeeze juice over chicken and put into cavity also. Massage chicken with olive oil sprinkle with sea salt and season with pepper. Bake for one and a half hours.

Easy meals are the best to make, especially since I don't cook much.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

One Fine Day

Okay, so now I am one day into the new year.

I have been searching for money saving opportunities at every turn. We went to the grocery store today and spent a total of $230. This is ultimately not bad since we actually got enough food for two weeks of dinners and 15 pounds of pork roast (enough for six family size roasts). I will find out next week if we really succeeded. Trying to figure out where to cut costs without over-spending is going to continue to be a challenge.

I must remember to take things one step at a time. I know that I can do this, I just have to keep in mind that changing habits is never easy.

I began purging my closet, I have quite a few clothing items that I should have gotten rid of long ago. Slow moves will make things easier to take charge of.

I should mention that I am selling my second dining table, chairs and china hutch. I figure that we really do not need two and I absolutely love my new one. Step two of clearing out the clutter.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Day, New Year, New Decade

Well it is day one of the new year and I can check one item off of my list.

I got my desk and it came with a matching chair.
I found it on craigslist.

I got it for $200 and I think that it will work perfectly.

Now we have to pack away all of our holiday decorations. Once this is done, we can begin cleaning the house and putting everything in order. I am going to take my time going through all of our stuff. I have to get rid of so much stuff.

Simplify life, save money, regain sanity.

There are only 364 days left to gain financial sanity.