2015 Meal Plan #5

It’s been a rough weekend here. I finally came down with my daughter’s stomach bug Friday night, although I’m recovering more quickly than she did. Still, lingering queasiness made meal planning and grocery shopping somewhat unpleasant this week. Actually, grocery shopping was VERY unpleasant today, thanks to the Super Bowl and 12-18 inches of snow forecast for tonight and tomorrow, adding to the usual Sunday madness. (On the plus side, I scored free Rolos and earned cash back on cucumbers and bananas, from SavingStar and Checkout 51!)

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

Meal Plan 5001(Like my meal planner/grocery list sheet? It’s from the List Plan It Meals ePlanner.)

Can you tell which meal my five year old daughter added? I was impressed she was able to spell “nachos” without help. :) I’ll make chili, and we can put it on her requested nachos.

What’s on your meal plan for this week? Are you expecting snow tonight/tomorrow?

 

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Cleaning House for Cash

I’m always looking for new ways to make a little extra money. One of the most consistent ways that I do so is selling stuff, primarily clothing. No, I’m not a clotheshorse, by any stretch. In fact, I’m such a boring dresser, a family member gave me a Stitch Fix credit for my birthday earlier this month. I tend to buy few items, but of better quality. I’m not into trends, and I don’t want to have replace my clothes every year. I also have a five year old, and any parent will tell you how quickly kids outgrow their clothes. I also don’t buy very many clothes for her, since my mother loves to buy high-quality clothes for her. So how do I make money from our unworn, out-grown clothes?

  1. Children’s consignment store. Throughout the year, I bring my daughter’s clothing to a local children’s consignment store. The payout is 40% in cash, or 50% in store credit. (Not surprisingly, I almost always take my payout in cash.) One of the downsides is that they don’t always accept all sizes and styles. For example, they haven’t accepted size 4T in over two months.
  2. ThredUP. This is an online consignment store. They buy and sell women’s, baby, and children’s clothing. You sign up online, request a “clean out” bag, and send in your items. They have a handy calculator-tool you can use to estimate how much you’ll receive for your items. I like having this option for when I have higher-value children’s items that my local consignment store isn’t accepting. I’m currently awaiting the arrival of my first clean-out bag…
  3. Consignment sales. I participate in two, semi-annual sales in my area. The first is a children’s consignment sale. They accept clothing, toys, and gear. There’s a small ($15) fee to participate, and the payout is 70%. I generally start all children’s clothing here each season, since the payout is highest. Anything that doesn’t sell goes to the consignment store, or thredUP. The other consignment sale accepts pretty much anything. I think of it as having a garage sale, without actually having a garage sale. I bring mainly adult clothing and housewares here. It’s the only real option for selling housewares in my area, other than CraigsList and having a garage sale, so I price things to move.
  4. Twice. This is another online consignment store, buying and selling men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories. I’ve sold items there (for cash, not store credit), and consider it a good way to clean out my closet throughout the year. You sign up online, and can either request a selling kit, or print a pre-paid postage label. The Twice payout isn’t huge, but I’ve found it to be good way to earn an extra few dollars for cleaning out my closet.

How do you make extra cash from your unwanted stuff?

 

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I Can Almost Taste It…

Few things are more exciting to me during the cold, dark days of winter in upstate New York, than thinking about and planning my garden. I’m especially excited about it this year, because growing 200 pounds of produce is one of my goals for 2015. I recently spent some time finalizing my list of seeds to order, and mapping out roughly where each veggie and herb will be grown. When deciding what to grow and where to grow it, I considered several factors:

  1. Will we eat it? There are some things I’ve grown in the past without thinking about whether or not my family will eat them. When we don’t, it becomes a waste of time and money. I lose interest in caring for and harvesting them, and they go to waste. (Green beans, I’m looking at you!)
  2. Past success. I’ve tried growing bell peppers several times, because this is something my family eats on a regular basis. However, I’ve never had any success with them. I know they can grow in my area, because the summer farmers’ markets are full of them. But I haven’t figured out the secret to growing them in my yard. I’ll try again another year, but I’m taking this one off. Other things I’ve struggled to grow in the past are also off this year’s list.
  3. Sun and temperature requirements. My raised beds are in a somewhat shady area, and the bed I’m planning to add the year will be in full sun. My containers on my deck get full sun, too. Things that like cooler temps and/or less sun are going in the raised beds. Things that like full sun and containers are going on the deck. Everything else is going in the back yard.

After drooling over the Botanical Interests catalog for a couple of weeks, I finally put together a reasonable list of seeds to purchase for my garden this year. (Order your own catalog here.) Here’s what I came up with:

Raised Bed 1:

Raised Bed 2:

Raised Bed 3:

Containers:

Back Bed:


What will you be planting this year?

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A Very Nice Surprise

Happy Monday! Our weekend was quiet. (What? Another quiet winter weekend??) Yesterday was spent at home, caring for my daughter, who threw up early in the morning. She started complaining about a stomachache at about 3:00 pm on Saturday, but didn’t get sick until 6:45 am yesterday. Between my fear that my husband and/or I will get the bug, too, and the 10 inches of snow we’re anticipating tonight and tomorrow, I felt compelled to make a grocery run yesterday. But that was the extent of my activity outside the house.

I received a very nice surprise over the weekend. I was speaking to an older relative, and he let me know that I should expect a check in the mail from him in the coming weeks. He’s not a wealthy man, but he’s older and wants to give away his money to family members while he’s still alive. I’ll be receiving several thousand dollars from him. This is, of course, a very nice surprise.

So what will I do with this money? Schedule weekly massages? Go on a Stitch Fix shopping spree? Buy the entire Botanical Interests catalog? All tempting, but no. We’ll put it all our money market account, which earns a tiny amount of interest. This is where our paltry emergency fund resides, and here’s is what we expect to use the money for:

  1. Taxes. Last year we ended up owing around $2,000 on our federal taxes, and it’s tough to say if we’ll owe again this year. My husband earned more, but I earned less. We had more money taken out of his checks tor taxes, but it’s unclear if it will have been enough, since all things were not equal this year.
  2. Propane. We’ll have four or five more propane bills before the season ends. Our most recent bill, which is due in a couple of weeks, was for $710. It’s safe to assume that the remaining deliveries will cost about the same.
  3. Emergency Fund. Our emergency fund is larger than the basic, Dave Ramsey $1,000 recommendation, but not nearly enough to cover a full month of expenses, let alone 4-6 months. As a result, whatever is left after taxes and propane will live in that account. Yes, we could pay off our remaining car loan with it, but now that our house is on the line for our debt, I want the security of knowing that we have something set aside, should we need it.

How was your weekend? Are you expecting any snow out of this storm? (And dear readers in warm locales, please do not rub it in!)

Oh, and this is the last time I’m going to mention the Ultimate DIY Bundle. Why? Because it’s the last day to purchase it!

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2015 Weekly Meal Plan #4

I put together this week’s meal plan with less enthusiasm than the previous ones, because I have a feeling we could be in for a rocky week. My daughter threw up early this morning. (For those keeping score, this is her third stomach bug since starting kindergarten.) So far, she’s thrown up twice and clearly feels terrible. It’s clear that this isn’t going to be one of those quick, 24-hour bugs…

What does this have to do with my meal plan? Both my husband and I escaped the last two stomach bugs unscathed, and I can’t help but feel like three-in-a-row is unlikely. Did I mention that my daughter and I had one of our sleepovers last night, and I shared her spoon and brownie sundae yesterday?? Oy. But I’m determined to get to the store today, since we’re expecting up to 10 inches of snow tomorrow night and Tuesday. Also, I need to restock our “sick pantry” with Gatorade, apple juice, and bananas.

So keeping in mind that the week could end up looking very different, here’s what I’m planning to make:

Meal Plan 4001(Like my meal planner/grocery list sheet? It’s from the List Plan It Meals ePlanner.)

Just a friendly reminder: The Ultimate DIY Bundle is only available for purchase through tomorrow. If you’re interested in some inspiration for getting your DIY on this year, This is a fantastic resource containing 75 eBooks and eCourses, plus $150 worth of bonuses, for just $34.95.

What on your meal plan this week?

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The Deed is (Partially) Done

As we slowly wind our way to the finish line of the home equity loan application process, there are lots of loose ends to tie up. One of the biggest was closing the four credit card accounts in my husband’s name with balances on them. (For reasons explained here, the loan will be only in his name.) When the bank told us we could close the accounts while they still had balances on them, I was surprised and doubtful. But sure enough, it can be done! All four accounts are now closed. The most ridiculous part of closing them was listening to the “account closing specialists” tell me how sorry they were to see me go, and ask numerous questions designed to find a way to get me to change my mind. Sorry, Chase and Discover, no more hefty interest payments from this gal! Be there, done that, hated it. We’re now awaiting word from the settlement agent to schedule the loan closing…

In other news, it’s Friday!! Although I’m trying very hard to maintain a zen-like approach to winter this year, the weekends are rough. My husband and are happy to lay on the couch all weekend, but our daughter looks to us for entertainment. By the end of the weekend trapped in the house, we all need a break! I have a couple of ideas for ways to break up the days and get out of the house, including Bingo Night at my daughter’s school tonight. I’ll also be putting together next week’s meal plan, baking, and doing some reading.

If you’re looking to do some reading this weekend, take a look at just some of the great books included in the Ultimate DIY Bundle, which is available only through Monday:

There are a total of 76 eBooks and eCourses from the world’s leading DIY and crafting bloggers, plus bonuses worth over $150, for just $34.95!

What you up to this weekend?

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Home Equity Loan: The Plot Thickens

At the time of my last update on our home equity loan application process, we had been conditionally approved, pending the results of the title search and our full-house appraisal. Both have been received, and we’re inching toward closing. However, the waters have been muddied a bit. Here’s how:

The loan will be only in my husband’s name. We made this call because he is by-far the primary earner in our family. Also, his credit score is slightly higher than mine, although both of ours are considered very good. What we didn’t think would matter at the time was that not all of our credit cards with balances on them are in his name. In fact, they’re all in my name, and he’s on some of my accounts.

Because his debt-to-income ratio is considered high – Did I mention that his grad school loan and our remaining car loan are in his name, too? – the loan payments will be made out directly to the cards in his name, and will have to be closed. Immediately. This is kind of a bummer, because this will negatively impact my credit score, which otherwise probably would’ve been the stronger of the two, after the loan closes. The remaining amount of the loan – about $16,000 – will be paid out to him, and we’ll apply it to the cards only in my name.

Here are the balances that will be paid directly by the bank:

  1. Chase 1: $21,927.44
  2. Chase 2: $3,722.85
  3. Discover: $15,593.03
  4. Wells Fargo: $854.02

Readers familiar with my monthly debt totals may wonder why they’ve never seen the Wells Fargo balance before. This is our one-year-no-interest furniture loan. At the onset, we calculated what our monthly payments would need to be to pay it off in under a year, and therefore avoid paying interest. We’ve been paying that amount every month, and the loan will be paid off, without interest, in March. As a result, I do not consider it part of our monthly debt total. Yes, I realize that in the most technical sense, this is inaccurate. But, for me, the monthly debt totals are a tool for tracking debts outside our regular, fixed-amount accounts. (I also don’t include our student loans, mortgage, and car loan for the same reason.)

Anyway, likely by the end of this week, the accounts listed above will be closed. The bank we’re working with on the loan insists that credit card companies will allow us to officially close the accounts before they’ve received final payment on them. This seems a little dubious, but I’m sure they have more experience with this process than we do.

While putting our house on the line definitely makes me nervous, it’ll be nice to consolidate our payments into one, with a much-lower interest rate. Instead of throwing as much money as we can at five different credit cards every month, while all of them are racking up their own higher interest charges, we’ll have one payment and can make extra payments as often as possible.

 

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Ultimate DIY Bundle

There aren’t enough hours in the day, right? With work, helping the kids with their homework, preparing meals, cleaning up after everyone and doing yet another load of laundry, there’s very little time for sleep – let alone DIY and crafting!

But do you look at that bare wall in the den and that ratty tablecloth on the kitchen table, and just wish you had a few hours to do something about them? Or do you browse through those wonderful crafting successes on Pinterest and think to yourself that “one day” you’ll have a few more minutes to yourself so that you too can create something incredible?

You’re not alone – there’s a huge community of people out there who are feeling just as frustrated as you are!

Thankfully though, there’s an exciting new product to help you quickly and easily get into (or back into) the creative projects you’ve been desperate to start. It’s called The Ultimate DIY Bundle, and it’s a collection of carefully curated DIY and crafting eBooks and eCourses from the world’s leading authors and bloggers in the industry.

For the crazy low price of just $34.95, you get access to a carefully curated library of over 76 eBooks and eCourses. And this really is great value: the Ultimate Bundles team (who produced the resource) has spent MONTHS seeking out the most respected experts in the industry and asking them to contribute their premium-quality eBooks and eCourses. These really are the best of the best when it comes to DIY and crafting advice and information.

Topics in the bundle include:

  • Home decor
  • Furniture painting
  • Photography
  • Chalk pastels
  • Handmade gifts
  • Homemade skincare products
  • Cake decorating
  • Photography and photo-editing
  • Paint colors and interior design
  • …and a whole lot more (86 eBooks and eCourses in total) – to help you be inspired or get started with your next DIY or crafting project!

There’s no need to worry about information overload though: The Ultimate DIY Bundle comes with a complete guide to getting started, so that you can know exactly which resource to use for your specific crafting or DIY project and jump straight into it with confidence!

Hurry though! The Ultimate DIY Bundle will only be on sale for 6 days – from 8am EST on Wednesday, January 21 until 11:59pm EST on Monday, January 26.

You can buy with complete confidence because you’re covered by the Ultimate Bundles 30-day money-back guarantee. That means you have a full 30 days to enjoy all the eBooks and eCourses in the bundle, and if you don’t think they provided enough value, you’ll get a full refund.

Not only that, but The Ultimate DIY Bundle comes with 4 awesome bonuses, worth over $118. That’s 3x the price of the bundle alone! These include…

A free $15 Store Credit PLUS 8×10 Art Print from Hope Ink ($43 Value), a free online class from Craftsy (up to $60 Value), free $15 store credit to Fawnsberg.com, and a free sewing pattern PLUS a Premium Video Class from UpCraft Club ($19.99 Value).

So, don’t miss your chance to grab The Ultimate DIY Bundle, and get 85 incredible eBooks and eCourses for just $34.95. This amazing deal ends in just…

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Pick up your copy right now, before it’s too late. Or, learn more here.

Are you crafty? What DIY projects are your working on (or dreaming about)?

 

Disclosure: I have included affiliate links in this post. Read the fine print about this bundle and read the answers to frequently asked questions about the bundle.

 

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2015 Reading Update

One of my 12 goals for 2015 is to read 15 books. Had I not been reading before? No, not at all. But I was spending a lot time reading magazines, almost to the exclusion of books. I read Bloomberg Businessweek, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, O, and Money. I pride myself on never paying for magazine subscriptions, and instead use points from sites like Recyclebank and eRewards to “pay” for them. Bloomberg Businessweek is a weekly magazine, so I’m always behind with it. Thus, I wasn’t reading very many books. But now that I’ve made reading books a priority, I’m confident I’ll be able to exceed my goal for the year. (You can follow my progress here.)

I finished my second book of 2015, The All New Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space, over the weekend. Although I’m not planning to use the SFG method in its entirety, I will probably try using “Mel’s Mix” when I start my new bed this spring. It’s equal parts blended compost, vermiculite, and peat moss, and Mel, (the SFG author), swears by it.

So what am I reading now? Something that speaks to me, as the parent of a VERY picky eater:

french

Speaking of reading… are you familiar with Buck Books? It’s a great source for affordable eBooks and audiobooks, covering all sorts of topics, both fiction and nonfiction. They have periodic events, when a large selection of books on a particular topic are only $0.99 each. Today is the Buck Books Mighty Weight Loss Event, and there are 15 books available for just $0.99. Wowsa!

weight-loss-720x300

Do you read magazines, books, or both? What are you reading now?

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Stitch Fix Review

I was lucky enough to receive a $150 Stitch Fix gift certificate for my birthday earlier this month. The kind relative who gave me this gift knows that I’m not exactly the coolest dresser on the planet, and I think the gift was a not-so-subtle-hint. Actually, she’s a Stitch Fix user herself, and has had a lot of fun with it. I considered joining it when I saw some of the cute things she’d gotten, but then remembered that buying new clothes is not going to help with paying down our debt. Also, I had heard that it can take a couple of attempts before the stylist gets your taste down and starts sending items you love, which sounded a little frustrating to me.

How Does Stitch Fix Work?

Not familiar with Stitch Fix? It’s basically an online personal stylist. Users begin by filling out a Personal Style Profile, which asks all sorts of questions about body type, size, lifestyle, budget, and style preferences. You then schedule the date of your first Fix, and a personal stylist puts together a box of five clothing and/or accessory items for you. At this time, you’re charged a $20 styling fee, which is credited back to you if you purchase any of the items you receive. You have three days to try everything on, and decide which, if any, items you’ll keep. You receive a 25% discount if you decide to keep all five items. Any items you decide not to keep can be returned in the pre-paid mailing bag that comes with your Fix.

Review of My First Fix

My first Fix contained two tops, a dress, a sweater, and a pair of jeans.

first fixOverall, I thought the items were beautiful and a more stylish version of how I dress. Before I tried everything on, I though the sweater and the jeans would likely be keepers. However, after trying everything on, I decided not to keep anything. The sweater, while completely my style and very cozy, had a funky style in the front, which ruined it for me. The jeans technically fit, but were a little to skinny for my taste. I loved the style of the dress, but not the print. And the two tops were too draped and lightweight for me.

While I would’ve loved to have received something perfect-for-me in my first Fix, the checkout process allows users to provide substantial feedback that their stylist can use next time, to put together a more appropriate selection. I chose the monthly delivery option, so my next Fix is scheduled to arrive on or around 2/17.

Have you tried Stitch Fix? If so, what was your experience with it like?

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