2015 Goals Check-In #8

Red clipboard with blank checklist. With clipping path.

  1. Try 40 recipes from Martha Stewart’s CookiesIt was way to hot to turn on the oven most days in August!
  2. Decrease debt total by $5,000. We paid off $965.11, worth of debt in August, not including our mortgage.
  3. Read 15 books. In August, I read my 15th and 16th books of the year: Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche and How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. (You can follow my progress toward this goal here, and my review of How to Raise an Adult here.)
  4. Create a weekly meal plan every week. 35 meal plans completed!
  5. Visit Aldi to develop an informed opinion, and, if appropriate, make it part of my shopping routine. While I don’t think Aldi will be my go-to grocery store, I will stop there periodically to pick up some items. I found the selection to be somewhat limited, and the store closest to my house is a good bit further that quite a few other grocery options.
  6. Develop and stick with a monthly cleaning plan. Finally done!
  7. Put together a chore list for my daughter, and make it a part of her routine. I’m still reminding my daughter to do some of the things I expect her to do on a daily basis, but others I can count on her remembering to do herself. I consider this progress!
  8. Grow 200 pounds of food in my garden. I’ve finally some progress on this goal! My harvest total passed the 20-pound mark, and I’m excited to harvest some heavy eggplants and melons in September! (You can follow my progress toward this goal here.)
  9. Have monthly financial check-in meetings with my husband. August was a great month for this. My husband hasn’t wanted to put a to-the-penny budget down on paper and commit to it, in the past, but I got him to agree to do so for September! I’ve already realized that I didn’t include a couple of expense types in it, but I consider this first month to be part of a learning process!
  10. Make-ahead and freeze two meals each month. Only one in August, slow-cooker Bolognese sauce.
  11. Sell all remaining small business inventory. My plan for completing this goal is here. Effective September 1, all of my remaining inventory is discounted by 50%. Also, all small board books are now $2.50 (regular $6.99). I had a very quiet month in August, with just a couple of purchases through my Amazon store. I’m planning to maximize the back-to-school season to market my latest discount. (Shameless plug: The discount code is CLOSING50, if you know anyone who’s looking for high-quality children’s books, toys, and more.)
  12. Redesign blog. I’m not going to lie: this goal (still) terrifies me.

How did you do with your goals in August?

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“How to Raise an Adult” Review

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If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you’ve probably seen me singing the praises of the book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, by Julie Lythcott-Haims. (If you don’t  follow me on social media, I hope you will!) This was one of those I-can’t-put-it-down books for me. I particularly appreciated that the author is both a parent of two teenagers, and the former dean of freshman students at Stanford, so she understands the pitfalls and struggles of “helicopter parenting” from both perspectives.

This book discusses several topics that relate to me directly, as the (somewhat anxious) parent of a five-and-a-half-year-old. It’s organized around four overarching principles:

  1. We have been lead to believe that the world is a much more dangerous place than it really is, and this fear causes us to limit our children’s opportunities to go out and experience the world, especially on their own. Statistics are provided demonstrating the disconnect between what many parents – myself definitely included! – believe about the prevalence of crime and child abductions, in particular, and what’s actually happening out there. This belief leads us to instill fear in them, rather than teaching them how to actually exist in the world.
  2. Creating a “checklisted childhood” that aims for a very narrow and specific definition of success – admission to a top, brand-name college – denies children the opportunity to develop a whole host of critical life skills, like initiative, critical thinking, resilience, and problem-solving. In some cases, it can even lead to psychological harm.
  3. Children truly grow and learn by trying, failing, and eventually succeeding at things that genuinely interest them. As difficult as it can be to allow our children to struggle with something, and even fail at it, we sell them short if we don’t.
  4. Parents and families are happier when parents have their own individual identities and interests, apart from parenting their children. Hovering and defining ourselves based on our children’s accomplishments (or failures) is harmful to everyone.

It all sounds so rational, right? The implementation and follow-through is the tough part, though. (Isn’t it always??) I think I’ll struggle most with parts of #2, since I would love for my daughter to go to a great “reputation” college. In fact, I’ve been wrestling with this bias a lot lately, as I’ve thought about the cost of college and how much we’ll be able to pay for her. How to Raise an Adult makes the point that what’s most important is that kids find a college where they’ll feel at-home and thrive, even if it’s not a well-known school. As someone who used to work in the test prep industry, I completely agree with the arguments made in this book about the inhumanity and unfairness of the college admissions game as it’s currently played. But once again, the hard part for me will be resisting playing along with it.

If you are the parent of a child of ANY age, I highly recommend How to Raise an Adult. It’s chock-full of great reminders and incentives for letting our children try and do things on their own, as well as modeling happiness and fulfillment for our kids.

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Out-of-the-Ordinary Expenses: August Update & September Projections

August was a pricey month, particularly our vacation in Maine! (You can read about what we saw and did here, and a breakdown of the cost, here.) Here’s a summary of how accurate my August expense projections turned out to be, as well as what I’m projecting for September:

Update on August Expenses

  • Vacation: $1,800 (projected), $1,895.51 (actual).
  • School supplies: $80 (projected), $113.60 (actual). Ugh – I didn’t estimate this well at all! I ended up buying a larger (aka, more expensive) backpack than I originally planned, and I clearly had no idea how much the binders and sheet protectors my daughter’s teacher requested actually cost!
  • Pet care: $100 (projected), $41.61 (actual). Tony hung in there and did not need to visit the vet, so I just had to purchase routine cat-care items (food for Tony’s kitty sister, and litter for both of them).
  • Car care: $900, (projected), $0 (actual). Since August was such an expensive month, we decided to hold off on this until early September. The good news is that I called another garage and received an estimate that was more than $100 cheaper than the one we received from the Honda dealership.
  • Medical: $0 (projected), $150 (actual). My husband noticed his vision (with his glasses) had deteriorated early in August, so he assumed he needed a new prescription and went for an eye exam: $50 copay #1. The optometrist he saw referred him to an ophthalmologist for a “more thorough evaluation”, since his vision has deteriorated pretty dramatically in one of his eyes, in the past year: $50 copay #2. The ophthalmologist referred him to a retinal specialist for more specialized testing to confirm his diagnosis of central serous retinopathy: $50 copay #3. For now, they’re waiting and watching, but he has to go back for a follow-up appointment in early October. (If you’re keeping score, that’ll be $50 copay #4!)

September Projected Expenses

  • .Ballet: $144. The payment for my daughter’s fall ballet classes is due this month.
  • Car care: $800. Our Accord is getting new brakes and rotors this month.
  • Gifts: $25. We’re attending my nephew’s third birthday party this month, and we’ll be bringing him a gift.
  • Pet care: $150. Tony will need more dry and canned food this month, as well as more pee pads. (The little darling prefers not to pee in the litter box. Thanks, buddy!)
  • Birthday party: $50. My daughter’s birthday is in late October. We’re holding her party at a local farm again this year, and the deposit is due this month.

How did your August expenses turn out? Were there any surprises? What are you anticipating for September?

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September 1 Debt Total & August Side Hustle Income, Plus 2015 Meal Plan #35

August Overview

August ended up being a fairly pricey month, thanks to our vacation to Maine. (You can read the full cost breakdown here.)  It was also the fourth month that I didn’t earn a paycheck, which means less disposable income came in. Even though I never wish away a single moment of the summer, it will be nice to start earning a more regular paycheck when I get back to work this fall. (My return date is TBD, but probably later in the month than it’s been in the past.)

September 1 Debt Totals

August was yet another uneventful debt repayment month. Since I’m not currently getting a paycheck, we didn’t put any additional toward any of our loans. Here’s where the debt total stands now:

Home equity loan: $58,719.15 (-$240.86)

School loan #1 (mine): $3,324.49 (-$93.23)

School loan #2 (my husband’s): $56,126.51 (-$462.02) 

Car loan: $3,505.89 (-$169.00 )

August Side Hustle Income

It was a slow side-hustle month in August, in part because we were away for a week.

Amazon store: $42.64

Swagbucks: $6 in Amazon gift cards

Ebates: $9.46

MyPoints: $20 in Home Depot gift cards

How was your August?

2015 Meal Plan #35

A few months ago, I purchased three local Groupon-type deals for $60 worth of meat from a local, family farm, for $30. Naturally, I waited until the expiration date to redeem them, and had to practically beg to redeem them all in one visit. Fortunately, the woman at register took pity on me and let it slide. We purchased ground three beef and bacon burgers (those were grilled and eaten about five minutes after we got home!), some breakfast sausages, some garlic-Parmesan sausages, some sweet Italian sausages, a pound of sweet Italian sausage meat, a pound of bacon, a package of pork hot dogs, and a pork tenderloin. I had to pay $4.16 out-of-pocket, so for $44.16, I got $60 of fresh, locally-raised meat! Needless to say, it’ll be popping up on future meal plans, beginning with this one:

  • Monday: Whatever I can find in the fridge. (I have a canning class at 6:30, so I’ll grab something quick and easy at home. My husband and daughter are having a “date night” at Panera.)
  • Tuesday: Cheese and grilled veggie quesadillas
  • Wednesday: Grilled pork tenderloin, couscous, and leftover grilled veggies
  • Thursday: Pasta salad
  • Friday: BLT’s and leftover pasta salad
  • Saturday: Grilled burgers with corn and garden veggies
  • Sunday: English muffin pizzas with salad

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Sunshine Blogger Award

The awesome Kara, from The Daily Whisk, nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. (Wow  – I never win anything!) If you’re not familiar with The Daily Whisk, Kara covers everything from organization and exercise, to personal finance and cooking. She also gets up at 5:45 am to run, which makes me feel like a total slacker. :) Thanks for the nomination, Kara!!

The Sunshine Blogger Award Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you
  • Nominate some other bloggers for this award
  • Ask the same number of questions of the other bloggers as you were asked
  • Notify the bloggers whom you nominated

Questions Posed by Kara:

(1) Which blogging accomplishment are you most proud of?

Hmm, my ten million subscribers? No… My 400,000 Facebook followers? Not quite… This may sound kind of lame, but I’m most proud of having figured out as much of this blogging stuff on my own, as I have. I still have a LOT more to learn, but when I started, I knew NOTHING about hosting, formatting, SEO, plugins, or Instagram. While I’m far from a master of any one of these, I truly have come a long way since I started this blogging thing in April, 2014!

(2) Describe or post a photo of your favorite pair of shoes.

I’m not a shoe-person at all! When I was in college and in my twenties, I was a believer in “beauty-before-comfort”, but somewhere in the last decade, I gave up on that. As a result, my favorite pair of shoes is actually my wool, Haflinger Sheep Slippers:

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Between my love of comfort, and the fact that I’m always cold, these guys make me very happy! (I would’ve photographed my own pair, but they’re in storage with all of my fall and winter clothes – not for long, though…)

(3) What is one goal that you’d like to accomplish by the end of this year?

Well, I’d love to accomplish all 12 of my goals for 2015, but I’m pretty confident that a few of them aren’t going to get there. In addition, I’d really like to do some serious decluttering of my house, and I’d love to increase my blog traffic and social media followers (hint, hint). :)

(4) What is your favorite bean?

Easy: chickpeas. Love them.

(5) What are your favorite topics to write about?

I love sharing our financial challenges and struggles. I don’t do a whole lot of that in my “real” life – or at least not as openly as I do here – so I love having this outlet for sharing. I also love the support and feedback I receive from readers.

My Nominees:

  1. Kirsten from Indebted and In Debt
  2. C from The Single Dollar
  3. Mark and Lauren from MarkandLaurenG.com

My Questions for Them:

  1. What has been the highlight of your summer?
  2. What has been your greatest challenge this summer?
  3. If you could change one thing about your blog, what would it be?
  4. What book are you currently reading? (Or, what was the last book you read?)
  5. What’s your favorite thing about fall?

One More Thing…

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2015 Meal Plan #34, Plus a Free Healthy Living Audio Course

Another week, another late meal plan… I usually put together my meal plans on Sundays, but my parents visited us this past Sunday-Monday, and that got me a little off-schedule. Anyway, camp is over but school hasn’t started, making this a pretty unstructured week. The one “special” dinner this week is Saturday, when we’re hosting my daughter’s first-ever sleepover! Her friend is coming over for dinner Saturday, and spending the night with us. (I’m fairly confident my daughter would have a hard time sleeping over at someone else’s house at this point, so I thought we start by hosting her first sleep-over.) Here’s what we’re having for dinners this week:

  • Monday: It was a chaotic evening, and I’m not going to lie: we had boxed mac and cheese with raw veggies.
  • Tuesday: Per my daughter’s request, pancakes and breakfast sausage.
  • Wednesday: French bread pizzas with grilled zucchini, squash, and peppers
  • Thursday: Taco salads (with lettuce and tomatoes from the garden!)
  • Friday: Chicken parm pasta with farmstand corn
  • Saturday: Chicken nuggets, French fries, and raw veggies w/ ranch dressing
  • Sunday: We’re bringing brownies to a BBQ!

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

“4 Essential Habits of Healthy Families” Free Audio Course

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  • Essential Habit #1: “Nurturing your Best Self” (with Heather from Mommypotamus) – A great reminder to get enough sleep and how doing so impacts our productivity
  • Essential Habit #2: “Staying Fit as a Family (Gym Membership Not Required)” (with Crystal from Money Saving Mom) – The importance of setting goals for fitness and ensuring they fit with our current life season
  • Essential Habit #3: “From Scratch Meal-Making” (with Katie from Kitchen Stewardship) – Lots of inspiration for planning and making healthy family meals and getting kids involved with the process
  • Essential Habit #4: “Using Natural Remedies” (with Katie from Wellness Mama) – Incorporating natural remedies confidently and how to use them

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Michelle Anthony M.A. Ph.D. , Reyna Lindert Ph.D. Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-proof Girls in the Early Grades(63) Download: $4.99
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Why I Love the Back-to-School Season

Ah, the back-to-school season… Depending on where you live, it’s either just around the corner, or it started a couple of weeks ago. My daughter starts first grade <insert mommy sniffles> on September 9th, so we still have one foot in summer break. But between the school supply shopping and the sudden increase in mail we’re receiving from the school, the start of a new year is undeniably close. Here’s why I love the back-to-school season:

  • A fresh start. Freshly sharpened pencils, a new lunchbox, and a return to routines, all signal a fresh start in my mind. While not all of my big plans for this time of year pan out, a gal can dream. Will my daughter get to bed on-time every night? No. Will she remember to empty her own lunch box and unpack her folder for me to review, every afternoon? Nope. Will I remember every form, project, and activity I have to complete, sign-off on, or attend? Dream on, sister! But I still face this fresh start full of hope and optimism.
  • The return of structure. I’m a huge fan of structure and routine. (Yes, I realize just how exciting that makes me sound…) As a result, summers can be tricky for me. There’s a lot of time to fill with playdates and activities to keep my daughter engaged, socialized, and enjoying her time off from school. I treasure the time I have with her, but all the unstructured hours and days can be challenging for me.
  • Larger blocks of alone-time. It’s tough to get much done when both my daughter and I are home all day. She’s an only child, and while she’s great at playing on her own, she also looks to me for entertainment and a playmate, when we’re home alone together. This means I rarely get more than an hour to work on a single project – be it cleaning, making phone calls, or blogging. With her at school, I can be much more productive with my time.
  • The return of a paycheck. I currently work very part-time in the career center of a local college. I’m off whenever the students are off, which means I do not work over their summer, winter, and spring breaks. It’s a great schedule for this stage of my life, when I want to be home for my daughter’s morning and afternoon school buses, but I’m not paid when I’m not at work. Since my summer break starts in early May, by the time the back-to-school season rolls around, I’ve been going without a paycheck for several months. My earnings constitute a very small percentage of our overall household income, but every little bit helps.

What – if anything – do you like about the back-to-school season?

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Maine Vacation Cost and Savings

Maine Vacation Cost and Savings

My husband, daughter, and I took a vacation to coastal Maine about 10 days ago. We spent five nights there, and you can read my recap of what we saw and did here. When I estimated the cost of the trip in my post about August expenses, the number I came up with was $1,800. This was based on little more than a rough idea of the cost of the hotel, and a guess at how much we’d spend on food. I didn’t factor in gas, souvenirs, parking, or activities. (Can you tell we haven’t gone on many family vacations??)

When I added up all of the costs associated with the trip, the total came to… $1,895.51! (I kept track of every expense in a note on my phone, which I had with me nearly every moment of the trip.) While the actual total was over my estimate by almost $100, I’m still pretty happy with it. Here’s how the costs of the trip broke out:

  • Hotel: $1,128.50. This covered four of the five nights (we prepaid for one night when we booked the trip), in a nice-but-not-fancy hotel that was a 15-minute walk to the beach, and included breakfasts.
  • Food: $486.11. This includes lunches, dinners, ice cream, coffee, and some chocolates. Perhaps the thing I most looked forward to about this trip was eating LOTS of good seafood, so I didn’t mind spending money on this category. Scallops, clams, and lobster – oh my!
  • Souvenirs: $89.20. We let our daughter get a couple of souvenirs, including a sweatshirt and a small snow globe, and we got a small poster and a Christmas tree ornament. This total also includes a $25 gift for my in-laws, who stayed at our house and cat-sat for us, so we didn’t have to pay for a pet-sitter. (A savings of over $100!)
  • Activities: $72.75. This covered admission to a zoo/amusement park, and tickets for rides and arcade games.
  • Gas: $54.83. We filled up for $2.47 per gallon at the same place in NH on the way there and back, and we had half a tank leftover when we got home.
  • Tolls: $40. We use EZ Pass, so I have no idea how much we actually spent on tolls, but while we were away, our EZ Pass automatically refilled at the usual $40-level. I’m confident that we actually spent less than this.
  • Tips: $19. This includes tips for hotel housekeeping, the hotel breakfast room staff, and a parking valet.
  • Parking: $10.50. We parked in metered and municipal spots several times.

Although $1,900 is a lot of money, we feel good about spending it on an experience that enabled us to make family memories together. We tried to economize where we could, without doing the trip completely on-the-cheap. (Are souvenirs necessary? Of course not.) Here are the primary ways we saved money on this trip:

  • Driving. We only considered drive-able locations for this trip, and we took a fuel-efficient car that kept gas costs quite low.
  • Food. We brought snacks with us for during the car rides, at the beach, and whenever we needed them. We came home with about a third of them leftover, and are still enjoying them. We also purposely stayed in a hotel that included breakfast. I’m sure it’s built into the price of the room, but I’m strongly suspect we still saved some money by eating hotel breakfasts and not going out for them.
  • Parking. Our hotel was a good 15-minute walk from the beach, where parking was $25 per day. We walked every time we went. (Bonus: This gave us a chance to burn off a few of the fried-clam-calories we consumed!) We also chose municipal lots over metered parking where we could, even though they were farther from our destinations. (Did I mention that the fried clams always came with French fries??)

How do you save on vacations?

brokeGIRLrich

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A Day in the Life: Summer Edition

I last did a “Day in the Life” post in February, and my typical schedule was very different than it is now, since I have the summer off from work and my daughter is home from school. Here’s how yesterday went:

5:15 am: Awakened by Tony, one of my two geriatric cats, seeking a refill of food in his dish. Got up, fed him, and went back to bed.

6:30 am: Alarm went off. Got up and showered.

7:00 am: Went downstairs, started the coffee pot, fed other geriatric cat, and made myself breakfast (toasted whole wheat cinnamon bread from a local bakery). Hopped online to check blog and read a couple of other bloggers’ posts.

7:30 am: Husband and daughter came downstairs. Got breakfast for my daughter.

8:30 am (okay, 8:34): Got in the car.

9:00 am: Dropped my daughter off at camp. Chatted with two other moms I know in the parking lot for a few minutes afterward.

9:15 am: Picked up cat food at PetSmart and a couple of school supplies for my daughter at Staples. Took this picture of Halloween decorations at AC Moore, and silently wept about the summer being nearly over. Posted picture to Instagram.

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9:35 am: Arrived at Toyota dealership for the second attempt at an oil consumption test to prove that Toyota should rebuild our Camry’s engine for free – the only times in life I’ve really wanted to fail a test. It passed again! So our next steps are to keep topping it off with oil as needed, and buy only cars from Honda once this Camry kicks the bucket. (Neither of our Accords have EVER had any problems besides routine things.)

11:05 am: Arrive at camp 55 minutes early. Park in the shadiest spot I could find, finish the Listen Money Matters podcast I’d been listening to, and read How to Raise an Adult, which I’m loving!

12 pm: Pick up daughter and drive home.

12:25 pm: Arrive home, heat previous night’s dinner leftovers – chicken and veggie stir fry with jasmine rice – for lunch for both of us. Clean up lunch dishes, put away dry breakfast dishes, and cut up veggies and honeydew melon purchased at the grocery store the day before.

1:45 pm: Leave to meet friends at the pool for a couple of hours.

4:50 pm: Arrive home from the pool, get changed, give daughter a snack (cut-up honeydew), and start working on dinner.

6:25 pm: Husband arrived home. Finished grilling dinner, ate, and started dinner clean-up, while husband took daughter upstairs for a shower.

7:15 pm: Daughter came downstairs in her pajamas, and reported that she suckered told my husband she was too tired to take a shower, and wanted to go to bed early. Went upstairs to tuck her into bed.

7:35 pm: Went back downstairs, finished kitchen clean-up, made a cup of tea, and sat down with my laptop and a frozen Snickers bar. Read and commented on posts from other bloggers, (I especially loved this one), and wrote “Day in the Life” post.

10:00 pm: Went upstairs and got ready for bed! Read book in bed, until my eyelids started getting very heavy.

What does a typical summer day look like for you?

ReUseIt.com

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2015 Meal Plan #32

(Technically, this should be meal plan #33 of 2015, but we were on vacation last week.)

I had a wonderful time on our trip to Maine last week, and I got to enjoy lobster, clams, scallops, shrimp, and crab while we were there. It was fantastic! But aside from cantaloupe with breakfast every morning, and cole slaw as a side, my fruit and vegetable consumption was sorely lacking. As a result, this week I’ll be eating LOTS of fruits and veggies – hopefully including many straight from my garden! – and taking a break from fish. However, because I keep reading in various places about the importance of eating at least one serving of fish per week, I’ll be bringing it back next week.

We finished the last of the meat I had in the freezer before we went on vacation, so I need to buy some more and start the process of restocking the freezer this week. (This is something I look forward to not having to do very often once I pick up my first Zaycon Fresh order this fall!) Here’s what we’ll be having for dinner this week:

Monday: Grilled chicken, grilled veggies, and Simple Spanish Rice

Tuesday: (Leftover) Grilled chicken and veggie quesadillas

Wednesday: Spice-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin, couscous, and broccoli

Thursday: Pasta with slow-cooker Bolognese sauce and salad

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Blueberry pancakes and bacon

Sunday: Chicken piccata with orzo and salad

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

 

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