Friday, September 19, 2014

The last debt before the mortgage.

Have you ever listened to Dave Ramsey explain his formula? If you haven't, you need to google him ASAP. I'll wait. For those of you who have heard of him, hubby and I decided we would get the student loans taken care of once and for all!

His student loans are supposedly going to drop off/away after so many years because he works for the government, but really...will that actually happen? No idea. So we decided to tackle the student loan cloud hanging over our heads.

What is I doing to help pay off this loan? Well, first of all, I applied for 3 different part and full time jobs at my kids' school district. If I happen to land a job and day care, (yay) but if not, then that's quite alright. I actually love staying at home. Or maybe I could work just until we get the mortgage paid off :) and finally work on my novel full time. I believe in having goals.

As for this student loan...we need a second car. Hubby is working away at as much overtime that they will actually let him (since it's a rare thing in his work universe). We are hoping to buy a second car with that overtime. We could put it towards debt, but we're starting to need that second car for emergency trips and kids' activities. We've gone three years with just one car and believe me, I'm not applying for another loan. I've been eyeing a $3,000 Buick. Yes, a grandma car. Why does Grandma own a Buick? Because they were actually built before Ford, so you know they're more reliable than Ford and I owned one in my college years. The only reason I sold  my Buick was because we moved to Smoggy California (different transmission or engine or something).

Anyway, paying off this student loan isn't going to be easy. By our calculations, now that the only family car is paid off, if we put that extra money towards the student loans, it will be paid off in 16 months.

I posted a few things my fellow MOPS moms swap page telling them my family is trying to pay off student loans and you know what? I was able to sell my son's old Duplo legos for $15. Not a huge amount of money, but hey- every penny is worth it.

Check out that debt thermometer on here! Just to show how our progress is going.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Is a Dehydrator Worth It?

A dehydrator takes the water out of food, creating a way to lighten your load or space. It helps spices to remain almost forever, backpackers to carry weeks worth of waterless meals in their backpacks, and water out of fruit and meat for snacks.

An average dehydrator costs around $30. Is it really worth it? Well, let's look at the cost of spices at the grocery store. Let's take basil for example. I bought a fresh basil plant in early March. We're halfway through April and it's still producing leaves. We bought a sweet basil plant at a local nursery for $2.50.

Granted, the pot, soil, and water costs money, but its a small enough amount that it really doesn't add to much since the plant is so small. It's not like we're using enough water to fill a bathtub or anything. I'm a huge fan of gardening and when you plant even just one plant, like spices, it's well worth the money.
Any old dehydrator will get the job done :)

After cutting off the leaves, you should wash them (and make sure there are no bugs or insects on them).
Put a plastic tray (usually for fruit leather) on the bottom tray. This will catch all the crumbs when they are dehydrated

Place the leaves in an even layer on your dehydrator tray.

Wait 3-4 hours, but check them once in awhile. I tried dehydrating fresh strawberries one time and I actually burned them! So keep an eye on your special leaves.

When will they be done? I don't have fancy buttons on my dehydrator, but when they crumple when you touch them, they're done. Kind of like bacon.  Place them in a ziploc and have a kid crumple them to the size you want them.
Fresh organic basil

Back to the original question: is a dehydrator worth it? A regular container spice container of basil is minimum $3.00 around here. I bought the basil plant for $1.99 and have gotten at least 2 spice containers full from just one basil plant without adding any miracle grow or anything.

So the answer is yes. Over time, you can dehydrate many things...for mucho cheaper than the grocery store. Plus, who needs to keep buying the same spice container? Although they are handy...

Other uses for a regular $30 dehydrator:

Sunflower or Pumpkin Seeds
Dried Fruit (Grapes-Raisins)
Meat Jerky
Spices (Basil, Parsley, etc)
Flowers (who knew?)

A great website for more dehydrator uses: 

Definitely a kitchen investment! You can use all that extra money towards your debt and create some kitchen or craft experiments :)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Birthday Girl Turns 6...on a budget

This month our daughter is celebrating her 6th birthday. Granted, birthdays are a huge deal for kids and some parents. For us, we really cannot afford to celebrate it at Chuck E Cheese, Pump it Up, or any party planning place. So what does our family do? We went to the park.

Have to have cupcakes to celebrate!
Not only did the kids get a workout on the playground equipment, I brought along Capri Suns (back of the pantry), bottled water, goldfish, snap peas, carrots, and craisins.

Does anyone look like they are having a horrible time? Not after homemade cupcakes ;)

Not only does this help your local park, but it helps your local economy too. What a way to celebrate a kid's birthday! Even the parents were excited about the beautiful weather and getting their kids outdoors to run around. The girls ran around playing freeze tag while the boys played on the equipment.

The only downside is parents want to drop off their kids...with only two adults there. Watching them is okay, it's the getting hurt part I worried about. Most parents were okay with this. Or maybe they can trust me since I volunteer in my daughter's classroom.

Financially, how did we do? The only thing I bought extra were the things I did not have which was... surprisingly nothing. I could have sent party favors home, but you know what? We didn't have the extra money. So I used what I had and there were no sad kids there. They got veggies and crackers, a small drink, and a cupcake. See- no big, lavish, expensive party for 2 hours. $10 to rent the shelter (I think) and basic snack foods with cupcakes. Win-win for everyone!
I put "Gifts Optional" on her birthday invites- she got so many gifts!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Today's Grocery Trip

As I went to the grocery store today, I was beaten down mentally. It had nothing to do with the grocery store. It was my kids. Payday is today and I went to the bank drive-thru, pulled out grocery money, and promptly headed to the store.

Lo and behold, its spring break and these kids of mine are nightmares! I'm not trying to be mean, but they are those kids who throw a fit at almost anything. If one kid wants a chicken nuggets, the other wants pizza. It's night and day.

My oldest, who just turned 6, sat in the cart as my 4 year old pushed the cart into one of those glass refrigerated doors. Seriously? Usually he is good, sweet, and helpful. Quite the opposite today. Then there's my oldest. She tries to be a people pleaser, but the "do you remember" and "can we get that?" questions are endless. Or how about the 4 year old's mindless questions and "why"? "Why do I need to wash my hands?" "Why do I have to pick up my room?" "Why do I have to match my clothes?" The latter part bugs me. I went into the store looking for 6 items. I came out with over double that.

Ugh! Hubby is gone out of town and with little to no breaks for myself, how can a SAHM stay sane when just going to the grocery store? Granted I could let them watch Netflix on my phone, but going to one store shouldn't require entertaining them.

Luckily we did get everything we needed, plus I found some natural meat on sale at Fresh and Easy today :)  After all, I was NOT taking my kids to another store. Part of today's expensive trip included meat: ground beef and pork.

Ground Beef: $6.99 for 1 lb. Yay! Plus its grass-fed so I don't need to drive all the way to Trader's Joe for 1 pound of decent meat. I usually make this last for two meals and double up on the veggies or rice for filler.

Pork Tenderloin: Regular price: $6.04 on sale for $4.53 for 1.21 lbs This will make 1-2 meals for Taco meat in the crockpot. Goes great with quesadillas, Spanish rice, and refried beans to extend the meat.

Hope this helps and I WILL definitely be grocery shopping solo next time.

Monday, April 14, 2014

SAHM Income?

As a SAHM I'm not 100% a mom. I spend my very valuable time researching aka web surfing for DIY projects and experiments, writing a novel, submitting manuscripts to various agents, cooking, baking, sewing, teaching (my kids), volunteering at my kids school, photographer, and keeping my kids the ways of the world. Yes, I punish them with hard work.

So what the heck can I do to make an income from home? Let me know if you find that answer. I honestly have no clue. I know that if I had any sort of income from home, I would do it and excel at it as long as it doesn't involve other people. Ironic, isn't it? We have all these medical bills to pay off each month and to be honest, it's downright scary.

I've tried cake decorating, creating craft kits, and jewelry making for a little extra cash, but now I'm an official photographer. Is it for every stay at home mom? No. I'm not trying to dissuade you from becoming a photographer as a stay at home mom, but you need to have more than just a camera. You need personality.

Moving from the Midwest four years ago, I wanted to open a retail shop, but the costs to start one up are astronomical- on top of baby daycare. So after learning to decorate cakes, I found out I could not legally bake from home and now that California has the cottage food law, I can't have my dog or kids anywhere near the kitchen. Is that even a possibility?

Jewelry making was a joke. We have half shag beige carpet and with those seed beads getting sucked up in the vacuum, it's not a pretty sound.

On top of this all are kids. All the way from diapers to "Mommy, I want to help!" Then comes the crying and/or disasters from both me and the kids. Then hubby's infamous, "What's for dinner?" *bangs head on kitchen counter* Because I don't do anything all day, right?

This led me to photography. Hubby got me a really nice camera and said, "I know you can do something with this." Yes! A nice, great photograph-taking machine! I snapped pictures of the kids non-stop, learning the functions, researching various poses, props, locations, the whole nine yards.

You can take amazing pictures with your expensive camera. You can take amazing pictures with your inexpensive camera. It doesn't matter what equipment, props, or backgrounds you have. What matters is your marketing. I seem to know a little about everything, but yet I can't find a stable way to produce an income because I hardly leave the house. Being that one car family limits when I can leave the house in the suburbs during the day, but on the weekends and evenings, photography allows me to leave everything behind and focus on my job.

As for editing, I like to write and edit in silence, so that limits my time to nap time and bedtime. I can give 100 people flyers, postcards, and business cards with only 1 or 2 who will maybe respond. Unless you know people wanting pictures, don't waste your time saving for an expensive camera.

You need to be outgoing (and good with kids if you want to photograph kids) and get to know your community-build a network. This will block out the other photographers and keep you above the already saturated SAHM photography market.

I love taking photographs, don't get me wrong, but don't make my mistake by being introverted and almost anti-social. You have to jump right in and keep going no matter what it takes to get ahead of the game. I love taking nature photography-one of the hardest photography genres. I've never sold one nature photograph due to not meeting new people in my community who could possibly help me out.

So think about if a home business is the right choice for you. I know its not for me. I'd rather be making/creating something, not marketing and forcing sales. I would love to be able to make an income from home, but I probably won't make any if I continue to not meet new people in my community.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

April's First Half Grocery Bill

The month of April I had to buy household cleaners, snack foods for my daughter's class, and get ready for a birthday party this Saturday. How am I going to do that with $400 this month? Well, in reality, I only have $200 until the 15th (second paycheck).

Did I make it to the second paycheck before running out of money? Nope. But I have learned a few things along the way.

We did have to skip on getting party favors (bag of marshmallows, carrot, raisins, and pretzel sticks) to make an Olaf. We can't afford to get small waters for kids ("melted snow"), but we do have two pitchers that we can make Kool-Aid in one and another for water, so we can do the "melted snow" thing!

What did we buy? I can hear everyone asking.
Winco: Gluten Free Chocolate Cereal (for the kids) $3.57 Kid's breakfast
             Organic 1/2 gallon mik                                 $3.48
Fresh & Easy: Green Enchilada Sauce                      $2.39 (should really learn how to make it)
             Organic Apples 4pack                                  $3.99 snack
             Sour Cream                                                   $2.79
             Red Onions (4 or 5 pack)                              $2.49
             Tortillas    (not sprouted or wheat)                $2.69
             Avocados <3 <3 <3  Too many                     $7.78
             Annie's Snack Mix (Clearance)                    $2.00
             Vine Tomatoes                                              $1.99
              Dried Fruit Cherries                                     $6.59
              Dried Fruit Apricots                                     $5.49
              Snickerdoodle Cookies                                $ 2.69
Trader Joe's
              Ground Beef, Grass Fed    1 lb.                    $6.99
              Pork Sausage, Sweet Italian                         $3.99
And Sam's Club
              Jimmy Dean Egg Sandwiches                     $10.78
              Mexican Cheese Shredded 5lbs                   $15.12
              Canned Anaheims 2 Cans                            $4.86
              Parsley Flakes                                              $3.88
              Nutty Bars (Daughter's School Snack)        $3.48
              Brown Eggs, Cage Free   18pack                $3.98 (probably only thing organic in my cart)
              Snap Peas                                                     $4.78 (snack and birthday party)
              Colby Jack Cheese Block                            $8.98 (snack, cooking, and birthday party)
              Bananas                                                        $1.36
                                                       Grand Total:     $116.14

Wow. What a difference compared to last week! Daddy and Daughter were complaining there are no snacks for school and work. *rolls eyes* Hubby was also complaining how empty the fridge looked when he opened it. It was the day before I went shopping and creating a meal plan before going really, really helped. I was able to get what I needed- minus junk food for the party.

 Sam's Club was the biggest money sucker of them all. It may look like I spent a lot there, but I was able to find items for Saturday night's dinner, plus some food for other Mexican food dinner nights (that can be frozen). I know I should have gone there in the first place- shame on me! I'm suppose to be buying healthy and organic. What the heck happened? A

Next week we will be heading somewhere...can I buy organic on my weekly allotment? Can Jenn get back on track?

It should be easier now that the birthday party is done, out of town guests are gone, and household supplies are made. Whew. Yay vacation time!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Birthday Party Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the big birthday party for the 6 year old. What all am I doing to celebrate this and stay on budget? Well, I found I have the ingredients for 24 cupcakes (no idea how many are going to show up). I have a bag of carrots, enough sugar for a pitcher of Kool-Aid (need to get rid of it), and

The carrots will be disguised as "Olaf's Nose" for the "Frozen" movie themed celebration. I don't have enough bottles of water for everyone, so I'll make Kool-Aid in a big pitcher and have a smaller pitcher of filtered ice water (melted snow). I'll also throw a bowl of goldfish and voila- the kids can go play and run around.

It's 80+ degrees here in the Bako, so I'm praying the spraypark area will be turned on. What a way to celebrate a "Frozen" themed movie! Ha!

I have no party favors and very little decoration. I was able to cut out some snowflakes out of construction paper and I will randomly tape them around the park for the kids to find. I have no games planned since its a park. Kids can play with each other on the equipment.

The funny part is one of the moms called and actually asked if she could just drop off her kid and if any other boys were there. I told her I wouldn't feel very comfortable since it's only my husband and I at a large park at this party. I'm not going to stress myself out over the decor, games, food/drinks, and entertaining a bunch of 4-6 year olds. Parents should be there to watch their own kids and kiss their boo-boos. Not me. It will only be there for 1-2 hours. Granted this mom had to work and Dad could bring him for a bit, but this is a gifts optional and play at the park.

This mom has more to life than spending hundreds of dollars and time on one 1-2 hour birthday party for a 6 year old. The rest of those moms can spend extravagantly on their kids all they want to make their kid happy, but that makes kids and moms think they have to outshine the others and make each year "bigger, better, and more expensive."

I'm not that mom. I can't afford to be. If you're one of those moms, that's fine. We, as a family, have decided to stick to a strict budget and have realized we don't need things to make us happy to enjoy life.

My morbid opinion: its the moms that should be celebrating they made it through all that labor and that their child has survived however many years old/long.