Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Update

I know you all will join me in saying- Thank goodness it's Friday! It's also payday for me and wow can it couldn't come any sooner. I get paid on the 15th and 30th of the month and some months it seems like forever since my last check. Even though February is a short month, my paydays sure weren't any closer.

Many of the blogs I read fall into the same category- saving money and paying off debt, cleaning/organizing, and cooking. And like them, I am trying to achieve this to improve my family's lives. Years ago, I was an avid couponer. I even purchased a beautiful and easy to use coupon holder that is super organized. But then for some reason I stopped. I have no idea why and can only guess that I became lazy and careless. We do not have super high paying jobs but because we only have mortgage and student loans to finish paying off, we are able to add to our savings and meet our household bills with no struggle.

Still, one day as I was reading Dave Ramsey's website, I began searching blogs to see if anyone else out there was into paying off debt. Can you say naive? But I was so glad to meet others working toward the same goals. But it wasn't just debt reduction that kept me reading. It was the changes made by using coupons, cooking meals at home, etc that really struck a chord with me. When my husband and I first started out, we had little money and using coupons and making meals at home were an absolute necessity. But over time, we secured jobs in our chosen fields and paid off bills. Perhaps it was around then that we let go of our frugal ways. We didn't incur debt or anything like that, just stopped clipping coupons and starting eating out 1-2 times a week.

So why am I obsessed with going back to those days of coupons and cooking more at home? We have great paying jobs that meet our bills and saving needs. Luckily our jobs are secure -although I am sure mine could go if my agent thought necessary. As a tenured teacher Jeff is pretty safe. Even with me changing careers and losing a good portion of my salary, it hasn't affected our budget. As I wrote about before, it's actually saving us money. Still it doesn't mean that I should throw money away. I also worry about eating so much pre-packaged processed foods. And I am always in need of help when it comes to organizing and cleaning. That's why I love reading your blogs!

Pheobe from Cents to Get Debt Free is asking everyone to share tips and tricks to help save on grocery budget. Sorry there is no link- I am still learning about all this computer stuff! For me strange enough, I have saved money by asking my children to put together a list of dinner options they like. Because my kids are in school all day, all I have to worry about is breakfast and dinner. Lunch is not a big deal even though we do pack because they enjoy simple things like sandwiches and chopped vegetables. But dinner was always a hassle. The kids were always wanting to eat fast food since I get home from work late and would many times forget to plan ahead something for Jeff to throw in the oven. They usually would get it twice a week which was never enough for them and complained that they didn't like what I made (or Jeff). So I put the task on them to tell us what they did like. And it worked! They put together their own lists and we told them that we would pick and choose some each week with the promise from them that they couldn't complain. This has really helped cut down on making separate meals for us and them and less fast food trips. It was really counter productive making a meal and then having to throw something else together for the kids because they didn't like what I made. Less food used at each dinner thus saving me money and time. Head on over to her website to see all her and others ideas.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Laundry Dilemma

Okay friends- I really need help trying to figure out how to store the dirty laundry until I can get to them. Here is my problem. Each family member has a dirty basket and they are good about putting their clothes in them -mostly. But in our family of four- we do have a lot of laundry as the kids have school uniforms and my husband is a teacher with a school dress code as well. Plus my husband runs on the treadmill just about every day. So there is a lot of clothes changing each day. Most of the time if something isn't really dirty it will be hung back up to be worn again - especially in my husband and my case. But the kids have after school sports and activities and so a lot of their uniforms come home from school dirty and after school clothes get dirty as well.

With all the clothes piling up in each closet, I usually get it altogether at once and sort into my piles and here is a typical week of laundry -

3 loads of blacks
2 loads of greys
1-2 loads of reds
1-2 loads of tan/cream
(grey,black,tan and red are the school uniform colors they are allowed to wear which is why there is so many of those!)
2 loads of jeans
2 loads of towels - kitchen and bathroom
2 loads of whites (undergarments - this goes down in summer as my husband doesn't wear undershirts then)
1 load of pinks -daughter!
1 load of blues- sons!
2 loads of sheets
1-2 loads of gentle- usually husbands dress shirts/slacks and my work clothes
1 load of t-shirts/running shorts - not always depending if Jeff is training for a race

So a typical week can have me washing up to 20-21 loads! Wow, this is the first time I really put together a list and I am amazed at how many loads I do. Plus because I do not use my dryer except for towels, sheets, undies and jeans, I iron almost everything after they hang to dry in my basement. I keep on top of it easier when I can see them sorted as I don't have a set schedule because of working full-time, 1/2 hr commute home, and kids after school activities. I do try to throw a load or 2 in each day no matter what as I like my weekends to be pretty free.

How do you all store/sort your laundry before it is time for washing? Do you use the separated containers that allow you to pre-sort? I used to have one, but it was made out of PVC plastic and always fell apart under the weight. I did see some at Walmart that looked sturdier. Has anyone tried these?

I probably wash clothes more than most due to the uniform restrictions our public school instituted, but I do love them! When my daughter was in Christian school, she would not wear the same outfits more than once a month and it was a daily fight. When we switched her to the same school district her dad teaches in it was wonderful as she is not concerned with what she looks like as everyone has to follow the same rules! But the drawback is the increase in my wash load. Summer is awesome as it is really cut in almost half.

If anyone out there happens to stumble on my blog PLEASE share your ideas. I am really tired of my bedroom floor looking like a wreck. Although the cat land dog love it as it is a huge bed for them! This weekend I would like to implement a new routine and check this off my list from yesterday's post.

By the way check out Pheobe's to do list- so many similar items are on mine!

Cents To Get Debt-Free: Tackling My To Do List

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I am Blissfully Domestic

Ash Wednesday

Today begins Lenten season and also my committment to improve myself. As promised, I have put together a list of what I need to work on as far as my family, my home and my faith. I also need to add myself to this. In true fashion, I have a list a mile long in each area. I told you I have a problem with wanting everything perfect. I decided to just pick the top 2 in each category to start. They are as follows:

Family- listening more, spending more time with kids

Faith- attending mass more consistently , setting schedule to read Bible or catechism

Home- keep up with mess, work on decoration/improvement

Me- (tough to just list 2!) controlling anger, fighting the urge to procrastinate

So I am going to update my progress each Friday.

Now how do I go about changing?

So as usual, I turned to my internet friends. And you didn't disappoint me! I read a good article from in which she talks about the kaizen approach. Basically, it is about doing small things that eventually lead to the desired change. She uses the example of wanting to wake up earlier in the mornings. Instead of trying to wake up an hour early each day, you break it down to just 1 extra minute each day. After 60 days you've reached your goal. This may be the answer for me.

Today is a half day at work and I hope to get to church and home to clean before everyone gets home from school.

Keep me in your prayers!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Tuesday

Happy Fat Tuesday! Tomorrow starts the Lenten Season and I thought I would share a little of my background. As you read from my profile, I have changed careers. My degree is in molecular biology. I attended the University of Pittsburgh (Go Panthers Basketball!) and worked in a recombinant genetics laboratory for the University. I married my high school sweetheart Jeff and after the birth of my second child I started working part time for an insurance company in the evenings so that my husband and I could split taking care of the kids. Jeff is a teacher so I took care of the kids all day and then when he came home I got ready for work and worked till around 10pm. Although it allowed us to keep the kids out of daycare, it was very difficult for Jeff and me. We hardly saw each other during the week. Plus I really did not like my job. It was in a call center and you were tied to the phone. It was stressful and after a while I had to get out.

I decided to go back into science and was lucky to be hired in a molecular genetics laboratory despite being away from lab work for sometime. I loved the job, but it was an hour away. Where I live there are few good jobs, especially in science and many people do commute to Pittsburgh for work. But then gas prices started to rise and the lab was moving even further away so the decision was made to leave. Too much money was spent on gas and maintenance on the car. Then there was the time with commuting.

This time I really thought about what I wanted to do and also how it would affect my family. So when a local insurance agent was looking for a full-time sales position I hesitated based on my previous position. Yet after talking to the agent and seeing the office in action, it was really easy to accept the offer. And I really love it. I am even thinking of becoming an agent myself.

So that is where I am today. Although my pay is a lot less, my expenses are too. Plus there is a lot of flexibility for me to attend school functions that I didn't have before. Now that I think about it, it was a drastic move in saving money! I was spending almost $500 a month in gas alone! Now I spend around $100 a month. Plus less miles on the car/tires, less frequent oil changes. Hmm, I probably don't make that much less than before with all the savings!

Tomorrow, I will have my list of Lenten obligations. I have been putting this off because it's hard for me to admit the changes I need to make in myself. But it needs done! Pray for me!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Much Needed Prayer Request

This weekend was a blur of events. Mainly, we had an 11 year old shoot and kill his dad's pregnant girlfriend. This occurred just a few miles down from where I live and it is unbelievable, First the shock that this boy shot her and then went to school as if nothing. Many people are outraged at him being treated as an adult and his picture being put on the front page. My friend is the DA and unfortunately PA law states he be tried as an adult. It is unfortunate and tragic. I didn't even know that you could buy rifles for children. Sorry to start off the blog this way, but with it being on the news and our city just heartbroken about this I didn't think I could go without addressing it. Right now if everyone could pray for the Houk girls and the father Chris. We are all trying to rally together to help in anyway, but prayer is what is needed most.

I found an amazing recipe that I found from The Finer Things blog. It is for a really easy Breakfast Burrito. The main problem I find is that because I am not hungry when I first wake up I skip eating. Then by the time I drive to work (1/2 hr commute) I am starving. Our little insurance office barely has enough room for us let alone any kitchen items. We do have a small microwave , dorm fridge, and snacks. Unfortunately, many of the snack items are pre-packaged items and really not the healthiest. Because of different sales promotions we win a lot of gift cards for our local grocery store so anything we do purchase for the office is free. But eating this food is not the best. If I can make this breakfast burrito and freeze, it would be real easy to grab and go. Now to restock our work pantry with healthy foods- that don't take up too much space! If anyone has any ideas please let me know.

I didn't have a lot of time to really do the thought map on the 3 areas I want to focus on during Lent. One of the areas milling around in my old brain is how I am quick to anger when my children fight. I am a yeller. I admit it and I need to change this behavior. And I have to really pat myself on the back for only having one outburst and walking away from Paige's unreasonable crying fest. When I felt my anger rise I want to the basement to do laundry and when I could still hear her I went outside (even though it was 22 degrees) and cleaned out the truck. Normally I would go and yell at her for carrying on, and to my surprise she ended up stopping and came downstairs to have breakfast. Her mood changed and I didn't have to yell. Too bad it only took me 10yrs to figure that out. I also got a lot of things done around the house and Jeff even commented on how nice the house look. Not that I don't keep the house clean it's just that a lot of times on the weekend, I am so tired the last thing I feel like doing is any cleaning or laundry. Most gets done during the week, but the deep cleaning requires more time than I have during the week. More about that in later posts.

Again, please pray for Kendra's little girls and Chris's son. Their lives will never be the same and need all the support.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Edit- I forgot to add that my husband and I have been working on our finances for the past 10 months. One area that I have been trying to be diligent about is meal planning. We don't eat out a lot, but we do eat too many pre-packaged foods that I am finding I can make cheaper and obviously healthier. Yes, it does take a BIG rock to hit me on the head to realize some things! Take a moment to check out the great ideas from Pheobe at Cents to Get Debt-Free- her link is to the left.

A New Season for Me

Okay. So I started this blog last year and haven't really kept up with it - maybe posted every couple of weeks/months. Yesterday I went over the posts and really thought YUCK! Too much complaining and not enough gratitude so I took them off the site. I also go back and forth as to using our real names or nicknames. Maybe just first name or nicknames. Am I taking this too seriously?? Over analyzing- no not me. Next week starts Lent and during this time we are to look at ourselves and how we can be better children of God. Many people think we just give up candy (usually that's what teens and older children practice) and that is one (of many) misconceptions of my faith. Jesus sacrificed for our sins and so we are to review ourselves and how we can improve ourselves -with our family,friends,and spiritually. I think I am going to use this time to really work on some things about myself and use this blog to be accountable. So what do I need to work on? I'm not sure if there is enough space on the Internet. Plus, I can't try to change everything or I'll be doomed to fail. So I think I will start with the most important areas of my life which would include my family, my faith, and my home.

As I read some of my favorite blogs, I am able to catch a glimpse of how others are handling life's ups and downs. And just day to day life. It makes me feel better knowing that so many women are struggling with the same issues of raising a family, working inside/outside the home and finding time for themselves. Not that I am glad -just feel like I am truly not alone. In my head I knew others felt the struggle, but it really helps to read other's perspective and how they handle it. For me, I really want to make everything perfect and I think I overwhelm myself with the thought of how to achieve this. I know, I know, it's impossible to achieve a perfect home, family, and life. I know I should rethink my definition of what perfect is and work toward a more realistic perfect. But it's ingrained in my DNA. I can say the words but I can't change the behavior. So a lot of times I end up doing nothing at all and then, i.e. my home, I really get upset because it's a disaster!!

The turning point came yesterday morning when I was taking my son to my girlfriend's house before school. There was a radio commercial for a product called "Good Days" which is a natural supplement that is suppose to help with mood. Here is the conversation-

Jeff: "Mom, I think I would like to buy you some Good Days.
Me: "Why? Don't you think I have good days?"
Jeff: "Well, you like to go to bed early and you don't seem happy."
Me (to myself): Good Lord -even my 7 yr old thinks I need help!

Yeah- it's really actually cute and funny and I laugh about it now, but it really hit home. I think God is reaching out to me the best way -through my kids- to let me know I've got a lot to work on. There's no time like now and with Lent starting next week I can use this as my Lenten duty. And my blog (and anyone out there reading) my accountability! I need to do some thought mapping to help me decide one habit in each of the above three areas to begin work on. Pray for me - especially to remind myself to keep it simple!