Saving and Homemaking 4/22

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Forsythia blooms

Spring has arrived where I live, and with it a renewed interest in tending to the outdoors and freshening up our home.

IMG_2193Planting

This week I planted some herbs in pots inside. I started with dill and basil.  We have a sunroom so hopefully I will have some very inexpensive herbs in the coming weeks.  I was inspired to try this because we have been planting seeds with the junior kindergarteners at school.

Saving

Our local grocery store has e-coupons, and every Friday they issue an e-coupon for a free item as well as some other loss leader deals requiring the e-coupon.  I have been too lazy to log in to their website since the school year started.  I tell myself I’m too busy or there’s not time for everything.  In truth it look about 4 minutes!  I think I will commit to checking their deals on Fridays… this week was a free box of Annie’s Mac and Cheese which is appreciated.

Watching

This week I watched ‘The Ultimate Guide to Penny Pinching” while I was on the treadmill.  This documentary was filmed in England, so it amused me to see the grocery scene in the UK.  If you are a fan of saving money at the supermarket, you might enjoy it.  My favorite couple interviewed were putting on a wedding with a very tight budget.

Cleaning

This week I worked in the sunroom, since I was already there staring into my pots waiting for my herbs to sprout.  I gave the houseplants a deep soaking outside, moved the couch to vacuum under it, got cobwebs out of the corners, and went through the always accumulating mail.

Reading

Every moment I get I am sneaking a few chapters of the excellent middle grade book “The War that Saved my Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  The topic is the children evacuated from London to the countryside at the beginning of WWII.  This Newbery Honor book is for anyone 4th gr and up.

Cooking

“Using up” is the theme for this weekend.  Finishing off ham in the freezer with ham and eggs after church.  The evening I am grilling some odds and ends from the freezer and making potato salad from scratch because I have celery, onion and mini red potatoes.  Our local food co-op had organic pastured beef on sale so I made up some taco meat for the freezer.  Tonight I will sit down and think up a meal plan for the week.

How was your week?  Any savings surprises or spring cleaning?

Close Call on Debt Free Anniversary

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Love those cute readers

Well, it seemed like a definite possibility that I was going to lose my job today on the ol’ debt-free anniversary.  Sobering!

Yesterday I got an email inviting the 4 people in the the school district that have my position to a meeting with the HR director and Finance director.  Never good.  Especially a meeting with no agenda.  We suspected there was a 70% chance they would reduce the hours (again) and 30% chance I would be gone altogether in the next school year.

It turned out that they are going to reclassify the position which will take away vacation pay and some of the holiday pay.  I can live with that.  I am relieved because I love my library job and the kids.  My husband is relieved because he is really eyeing up retirement at 57, and a comparable job would be hard to find for me in the current education climate.  I am not ready to give up summers off because of DD’s age.

So, debt-free day will close with massive gratitude and relief.  Underlying these feelings is motivation to “make hay while the sun shines” and keep saving for both a UK vacation and retirement to make my husband’s early retirement a reality (he has over 10 years to go).

Have you had an employment wake-up call like this?  In education it’s become dicey every single year.

 

 

 

Debt Free Anniversary

Pink Roses

Stopping to smell the roses….

We were relaxing on the couch last night and I remembered that this Thursday is our debt-free anniversary.  My husband and I had to think back to how many years have elapsed since we paid off our house.  Six!  Every year I have to count back to figure it out.  DD was in kindergarten when we sent that last check off to Wells Fargo, and now she is in middle school.

It takes hard work to pay off your house and credit cards, but it is just as big of a challenge to stay out of debt afterwards because there is no “end” goal to count down to.  It’s just — stay out of debt and keep staying out of debt.

Over the past 6 years we managed to re-side our house, buy a new car, and added  a bathroom to the basement without going into debt.  To accomplish these required a lot of saving and budget meetings week in and week out.  It’s possible to pay cash for these expenses though when you aren’t making payments.  Our next major expense is hopefully a trip to the UK in 2017.  To accomplish this… saving, budget meetings every Saturday night, and using my part-time employment to put towards the vacation budget line.

If you are currently in the debt payoff process, keep at it with that gazelle-like intensity.  Efforts like clipping coupons and having no spend days are fine, but none of these things can rival the amount of money you save when you aren’t paying interest on car, home, college and credit cards.

Thursday we will probably celebrate by getting take-out dinner of some sort, and perhaps a family activity this weekend like going for ice cream. . .  or Chik Fil A 🙂

 

 

April Goals

Inspired by Laura Beth over at Hot Shot Headlines, I felt a post about monthly goals brewing.

dfbb2bab2fe032d4f537560224c6ffabBoost plant based vegetarian meals

DH and I used to be vegetarians, and I had a vegetarian pregnancy as well.  Somewhere in the sleepless days of having a toddler (10 years ago!) we went back to a more animal-based diet.  I have just finished reading “The End of Heart Disease” by Dr Joel Fuhrman and I am feeling convicted about increasing the amount of plant based, whole  foods meals.

Professional Reading

This month I am reading the acclaimed book for young adults “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and I would like to get to “Merlin” by TA Barron which is the selection for the Andrew Luck (“the librarian of the NFL”) Book Club.

Fitness/Health

Lose 2 pounds and crank up steps on Fitbit to 11,000 on Sat and Sun.  I do better during the work week when I am shelving books all day.

Family

Set aside a date to celebrate our debt-free anniversary later this month.  Begin hatching a plan to celebrate DHs birthday.  DD and I would like to take him on a surprise day to celebrate his awesomeness.

Financial

Day to day finances are in good shape.  Begin costing out expense to go to York, England, next year.  International travel is scary expensive for a family not willing to go into debt to travel.

How is your April looking?

 

Working Mom to SAHM… And Back Again

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When I was a kid, the one thing I never expected about being an adult is how many different lives you can lead all within the same life.  Parenthood, it turns out, is one event that can be a life-shifter.

I worked in an educational sales field before being a mom, and never expected that I would want to stay home full time as a parent.  I wrote about our transition to a single income here.  The days spent reading nursery rhymes on the couch and playing “Dinosaur Train” in the driveway were unforgettable and such a blessing.

I wondered if I would ever go back to work, and if I did, how hard would it be to transition back?  It turned out that the hours spent reading with my daughter were the foundation to my return to work.  We read books about American Girl characters, classics like The Wind in the Willows, and many, many dinosaur books.

My husband and I are not willing to give up having me home in summers, so that has limited my work choices.  When my daughter was in 1st grade, I started back to work at her school as a substitute cafeteria worker.  This was hard, physical work, but it gave me experience interacting with all kinds of children.  I met amazing, hard working, ladies who worked at the cafeteria and then went to work at other physically demanding, low paying jobs.

Taking a very entry-level job in a school was my starting point for other school opportunities that didn’t involve lifting 25 pounds of mashed potatoes.  I got to know the principal which allowed me to step into a reading paraprofessional position.   I have found that to increase your wage in these part-time positions, you have to be willing to move around a little and try other school districts.  Each position increased my hourly rate and gave me more experience.

This fall I was looking on the teachers’ job positing website to read about a position a friend was applying for, and I happened upon the holy grail for me… a school library position.  I silently showed it to my husband and he was fully unboard.  It was 3 miles from home, paid about 20% more, and had benefits like paid holidays.

I got a call back for an interview quickly, but it was a strange interview and I didn’t think I had a chance.  At the end, I handed them a list of the 50 or so kids’ fiction books I read in 2016.  

I got the job.  I think the knowledge of kid lit was the clincher.

So, I am happily at a school library every day, home before the bus drops DD off, and making enough that I get matching retirement benefits and an opportunity to contribute to a 403b which I definitely am taking advantage of.

It felt like a long road back, but every job I took contributed to the next job.  As soon as I got the library job I emailed my cafeteria boss and thanked her for my time there…without that job I would have never have landed the other ones.

My advice to a parent choosing to stay home with small children is to do it if your finances and heart are telling you to.  You may find that being home gives you new skills and interests that take you in a career direction you would never have anticipated 📚!
 

 

 

 

 

It Started Frugal . . .

RetroLaceHeartValentineGraphicsFairyThe week started out frugal.  I had a “Secret Valentine” at work (like Secret Santa) and I made her Cupid Crunch (popcorn and pretzels coated in Wilton confectionary coating with added pink M n M’s and sprinkles for bling).  I also gave her stargazer lilies in a vase from Goodwill which I swear was leaded crystal.  I got it for .49 during a “yellow ticket happy hour” of sorts.

We also had a breakfast social at work and I made my Irish soda bread, which is delicious and uses ingredients I have on hand.

We ate at home and used a lot of pantry items.

How was your Valentine’s Day?  I made “black magic” cupcakes, which is one of those famous recipes that I believe originated with Hershey’s cocoa.  My husband picked up our traditional heart-shaped pizza from a local restaurant.

Each week we have a set amount of money we can spend, and when we don’t spend it all, we like to allocate it to savings or other budget areas we are focusing on.  Today we went to Target.  Need I say more?  I think we had 10.00 left at the end of the week.  Much of what we purchased at Target was organic frozen meals which Mr. Saver takes for lunch.  Fortunately, we don’t get to Target very often which minimizes the damage.

At this time we are pretty set budget-wise for kid summer activities.  Our main budget focus is saving for family vacation and overall savings.

 

 

Involuntary Simplicity?

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Mr. Saver Pays a Visit to the Food Truck

How would you feel about avocados being a rare seasonal treat?  Would your trip to Chipotle be complete without that glob of guac on top?  On my mind this week are thoughts about how changes in national (US) policy might affect my family.

Deportation of migrant workers, many of whom have falsified work papers (I didn’t know they were fake!), would immediately affect the prices of fresh food, most of which comes from California’s Central Valley.  Farmers hope their existing work force could be legalized, or that temporary work visas might be available to agricultural workers.  These low paying jobs are back-breaking and difficult to fill with US citizens, who can go work easier jobs for 10.00 an hour.  (For more background on this, read this article.). Crops need to be picked when they need to be picked and if labor is deported, millions of dollars of crops would be lost.

Rising fresh food prices could necessitate home gardens, canning, and buying local/seasonal.  Kind of a throwback to the ’40s  — before strawberries were available fresh year round.

The other piece of the food price puzzle is whether the government places trade restrictions and taxes on imported goods (say to pay for building a big wall), and importing fresh food like avocados and strawberries from places like Mexico quickly becomes cost-prohibitive.

Honestly, if the US sufficiently aggravates other countries, they may not buy goods from our farmers, who are barely hanging on as it is.  This could drive up subsidies which we pay for as taxpayers.

Changes in the cost of items can happen rapidly, as we have experienced occasionally with lettuce, citrus, and recently avocados due to things like weather and labor strikes.   What would your diet and budget look like if food prices increased?  Do you have a means to take advantage of food in season through canning or freezing?

Personally, I’m not ready to start stockpiling 5 pound cans of green beans, but it does get my mind turning about gardening and what we might grow that we will use and won’t be eaten by rabbits.  I have canned jam but never anything for food preservation; I do think this is a useful skill to have.

Do you think the scenarios above are possible?  Probable?   Canadian friends… where do you get your fresh produce from?