Bringing Home More Bacon

Within three minutes, I can easily come up with a list of five or more projects I’d love for us to complete in the near future. Don’t believe me? Here’s what comes to mind:

  1. Refinishing the hardwood floors, at least in the most highly-trafficed areas. My daughter actually got a splinter from walking barefoot on the hardwood floors in one area!
  2. Redoing our deck, which is looking really rough. My husband has already had to replace several rotted boards.
  3. Replacing the carpet in our bedroom. My sweet Tony was wonderful in many ways, but at some point, he decided to stopped peeing in his litter box. I’ve probably used 25+ gallons on Nature’s Miracle on that carpet!
  4. Paving our driveway. I love the natural look of a gravel driveway, but not when the weeds start growing through the gravel in the summer. And snow-blowing gravel can be tricky.
  5. Painting the trim on our house, which is peeling in some spots that are nearly impossible to reach with standard ladders.
  6. Replacing our stone front walkway. When we moved in, there was just a ratty mulch path, and my husband found some (ugly) pavers/stones behind our house and used them to create a path. Several of the stones have literally disintegrated in spots from the snow melt I throw on the walk in the winter.

Some of these are more cosmetic, (painting the trim and replacing the front walk), than others. The deck is becoming a safety concern, since the boards become weak as they rot. Last year, one broke when my daughter was standing on it, and she fell down with her leg sticking through the floor of the deck. But the thing they all have in common is that they are going to be costly, some very costly. My husband is pretty handy and loves to do DIY projects, but he works full time, commutes almost an hour each way, and no matter how much he’d like to, he simply cannot pave our driveway on his own.

I work very part-time at a “real” job, so I’ve been doing various side hustles to increase my income for the past few years. (Our daughter is six, and we prefer that I be home to get her on the school bus in the morning, and off in the afternoon. As you can imagine, this schedule is incompatible with most jobs requiring more hours.)

To help pay down our debt faster and pay for the house projects, I’ve become focused on bringing in more money. I’ve settled on selling items online – mainly eBay, but also Craiglist and in Facebook groups – as my primary additional income stream. I’m doing a combination of selling unused items from our home, and dabbling in retail arbitrage. Despite netting $429 at last weekend’s children’s consignment sale, I still have some items that didn’t sell and I brought home. I’ll be putting most of them up on eBay. The same is true of some of my remaining inventory from my small business selling children’s books. And I’ve purchased some clothing items that were on deep clearance – like cute baby Christmas onesies for $1.99 at Gymboree – and will be selling them on eBay, too. There’s some risk with purchasing items to resell (“retail arbitrage”), but I’ve done a huge amount of research, and am proceeding cautiously. My plan is to achieve $1,000 or more in sales (on eBay, Craiglist, and Facebook) by Labor Day.

Do you sell on eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook? Do you have other side hustles?

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What’s For Dinner at My House: 2016 Meal Plan #16

Hi there! Another week, another tardy meal plan…

It’s spring break week from school here, which means I’m home all week with my daughter. It also means that regular activities are cancelled, presumably because many families travel during this week. For us this means, no ballet (Monday) or gymnastics (Saturday). Since my daughter is an only child and both wants and needs socialization on her days off, I’ve packed our week with free activities at the library, and playdates with some of her friends. Here’s what’s on our schedule:

  • Monday: Musical performance by children’s theater group at the library
  • Tuesday: Playdate at our house
  • Wednesday: Program with wildlife educator at the library, baking “butterfly cupcakes” from her Fairy Cooking cookbook.
  • Thursday: Playdate at our house, visit to my husband’s office and out to lunch with him.
  • Friday: Playdate at a friend’s house, trip to school playground to meet friends

I’m pretty proud of myself for putting together a schedule of free activities. I briefly considered signing my daughter up for an art camp and/or some cooking classes, but our library has a great schedule of free activities, and I knew that she’d really want to have playdates with her friends. Sometimes free really is better!

One of my goals for 2016 is to create and publish a dinner meal plan every week. (I aim to publish these on Monday, but I fell short a little this week. Again.) I enjoy neither cooking, nor meal planning, so I’ve found that having a meal plan is a great way to save my sanity, time, and money.

  • Monday: Leftover spicy peanut noodles
  • Tuesday: Pork ternderloin with stir-fried broccoli and jasmine rice
  • Wednesday: Veggie pot pie (recipe from April issue of Real Simple Magazine)
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Risotto with peas from Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking
  • Saturday: Leftover risotto
  • Sunday: Chicken cutlets with green salad

What’s for dinner at your house this week? Is is school break week where you are, too? If so, what’s on your schedule?

Frugal Real Food Meal Plans

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What’s for Dinner at My House: 2016 Meal Plan #15

Exciting News!!

I participated in a semi-annual children’s consignment sale this past weekend, where I typically earn about $100. I set a goal of earning $200 for this sale, and did much better than I expected. I netted $429 – woo hoo!! I sense an additional car loan payment coming…

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Also, I learned that the other part-time person in my office found another job, and will no longer be working in my office. I checked with my boss, and he’ll probably have me go back to working three days a week next (academic) year. It won’t be a tremendous increase in earnings, but every little bit helps!

This Week’s Meal Plan

One of my goals for 2016 is to create and publish a dinner meal plan every week. (I aim to publish these on Monday, but I fell short a little this week.) I enjoy neither cooking, nor meal planning, so I’ve found that having a meal plan is a great way to save my sanity, time, and money.

I’m a wee bit tardy in sharing creating this week’s meal plan, so Monday’s and Tuesday’s dinners are what we actually had.

  • Monday (ballet until 6pm): Plain, old pasta with cheese and raw veggies
  • Tuesday: Takeout pizza with raw veggies (Please don’t judge me!)
  • Wednesday: Leftover pizza
  • Thursday: Pork tenderloin with asparagus and rice
  • Friday: Chicken cutlets with roasted broccoli (Chicken cutlets are my husband’s favorite! I hate pan-frying, so they’re a labor of love for me.)
  • Saturday: Leftover cutlets and raw veggies
  • Sunday: Shrimp and veggie stir fry with rice

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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What’s For Dinner At My House: 2016 Meal Plan #14

Happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend! It still feels a lot more like winter than spring here. We were home all weekend, with lots of activities for my daughter. On Saturday, we went to watch her gymnastics class, then she and my husband went to an arcade together. (She brought her own $10 with her, and returned with two junky plastic toys prizes.) On Sunday, my daughter and I went into town for her requested “ladies’ afternoon.” We checked out the offerings at the toy store and the book store, got sandwiches at a bakery, and hung out at the library.

My husband spent much of his weekend painting our TV room. It’s been a dark shade of maroon since we moved in, and since the room gets very little sunlight, the room always feels very dark. We choose a nice off-white, and it’s amazing how much brighter the room seems!!

This Week’s Meal Plan

One of my goals for 2016 is to create and publish a dinner meal plan every week. (I dropped the ball on this last week, but I’m back!) I enjoy neither cooking, nor meal planning, so I’ve found that having a meal plan is a great way to save my sanity, time, and money.

If you saw last week’s meal plan, some of the things on this week’s plan may be a little familiar. As is often the case, I underestimated the amount of leftovers we had some nights, and therefore didn’t make as many meals as I had planned to. Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

Has spring sprung where you are, yet? What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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April 1 Debt Total& March Side Hustle Income

www.debtgal.com (1)

March Overview

Numbers-wise, March was a pretty good month. (In this post, I talk a little about what wasn’t so great about March.) Income-wise, a number of good things happened:

  • My husband finally got his retroactive annual raise check! It wasn’t a life-changing amount, but a few extra hundred dollars is always a good thing.
  • We did our taxes, and learned that we’ll be netting about $2,000, after paying the accountant. We received our Federal refund just two weeks after filing, but we’re still waiting on the larger, NYS refund.
  • I received two paychecks in March.
  • Our mortgage bank notified us that we had an escrow overage, and sent us a $281 check. They also said that our payment amount will be decreasing by about $30, starting with our May 1 payment.
  • Our former propane company randomly sent us a rebate check for $77, for the small amount of propane that was left in our tank when they removed it. This was a big surprise, since I was told several times that they would be charging us a fee to remove the unused propane. I’m not going to argue the point with them, though.

Our only significant expense in March was work on the Accord. It needed new tires, an oil change, an inspection, some filters, a serpentine-something, and a couple of other small things. The total came to $1,100, which ate up half our our tax refund.

April 1 Debt Summary

Once again, we did not make any additional debt payments in March. Here’s what our (non-mortgage) debt looks like now:

Home equity loan: $57,003.10 (down $248.40)

School loan #1 (mine): $2,671.90 (down $94.38)

School loan #2 (my husband’s): $54,392.33 (down $263.10)

Car loan: $2,305.48 (down $173.61)

One of my goals for 2016 is to pay off the car loan, which actually comes due in March of 2017. We currently pay the minimum monthly payment of $181.45. While I’ll be happy to have this paid off at any point during 2016, the earlier we can start applying that $181 to something else, the better! As soon as our NYS tax refund hits our account, I’m putting some extra money towards this darn loan!!

March Side Hustle Income

I set a side hustle goal of $150 for March, and I didn’t hit it, not even close. Here’s what I earned:

Surveys: $20 Amazon gift card, $10 Best Buy gift card

Amazon store: $11.19

MyPoints: $10 Panera gift card

Ebay: $69.34

SavingStar: $6.15

Affiliate income: $3.36

April Side Hustle Goal

Now that I’ve got some things listed on eBay, I expect to continue to make some money there in April. (Actually, I already have.) Also, I have a large amount of items I’ve been setting aside for the semi-annual children’s consignment sale I participate in. I typically make around $100 at the sale, but this time I’m aiming for $200. My overal side-hustle goal for April is $350.

How did March look for you??

Disease Called Debt

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What’s for Dinner at My House: 2016 Meal Plan #13

Well, Hello There!

Happy Monday! I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet here, lately. The last few weeks of March were both hectic and overwhelming. First, I became somewhat obsessed with listing items on eBay, and learning as much as I could about that process. Then, all 175 cases of Girl Scout cookies my daughter’s Daisy troop ordered were delivered to my house. I had to divide them up into the 12 individual girls’ orders, and then divide up my daughter’s orders, with her help. She sold 399 boxes, so it took us a long time to get them separated out and delivered.

Next, I developed a three-day migraine, just in time for my parents’ three-day visit. (Just a coincidence, but kind of funny.) Then, we went to Massachusettes for Easter weekend, to visit my sister and meet her new baby. He was born with a rare form of dwarfism and has some related health complications, which has been a good bit overwhelming for his parents. I got to have lots of baby snuggles, though, which made me quite happy. My daughter got sick on the way home from that visit, and that kept us busy last week. And, finally, I had a head MRI on Friday, just to rule out any potential causes for my migraines. As someone prone to anxiety, I’ll admit to feeling nervous and unfocused in the days leading up to the MRI, even though my doctor said it was just routine and he was being thorough. Fortunately, my brain was deemed “unremarkable,” which I’d normally find kind of insulting, but when it comes to my health, I always want to be as unremarkable as possible.

This Week’s Meal Plan

One of my goals for 2016 is to create and publish a dinner meal plan every week. (I dropped the ball on this last week, but I’m back!) I enjoy neither cooking, nor meal planning, so I’ve found that having a meal plan is a great way to save my sanity, time, and money.

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

How are things with you? What are you eating for dinner this week?

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What’s For Dinner At My House : 2016 Meal Plan #12

Happy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and are enjoying the first couple of days of spring!

Weekend Update

Our weekend was pretty low-key. On Saturday, we took our daughter to her gymnastics class at the YMCA, then grabbed some lunch and went for a two-hour drive to visit friends. This couple introduced my husband and I, WAY back, in 1998. My husband went to high school with the other husband, and then both of them attended grad school in NYC (at different schools), while the wife and I both attended grad school in NYC (at the same school). They never intended to set us up as a couple, and in fact, my husband and I were friends for five years – and roommates! – before we started dating. We celebrated our tenth anniversary this past October, so this all feels like a very long time ago…

Although we’ve never shared specific salary numbers, we share a great deal of other details about our respective finances with this couple. They have some of the same struggles with culture impacting them, as well as the same frustrations about personal finances overall. As a result, this topic comes up every time we see or speak with them, and this weekend was no exception. Anyway, it was a lovely visit, and we stayed with them overnight Saturday, and into Sunday morning, before heading home.

The three of us slept in the same guest room Saturday night, and neither my husband nor I got a good night’s sleep, thanks to our daughter’s cold-induced snoring and coughing. As a result, we accomplished very little after we got home yesterday afternoon. I helped my daughter with her homework, finished reading a New Yorker magazine, and took a short snooze.

This Week’s Meal Plan

One of my goals for 2016 is to create and publish a dinner meal plan every week. I enjoy neither cooking, nor meal planning, so I’ve found that having a meal plan is a great way to save my sanity, time, and money.

I’m off from work again this week – it’s spring break week at the college where I work – and my (retired) parents are coming to hang out with me Tuesday through Thursday. Then on Friday, we’re heading to Massachusettes to meet my one-month-old nephew, and have a very low-key Easter. (We’re talking baskets for the kids and an egg hunt.) Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday (ballet 5-6pm): Turkey taco salads
  • Tuesday (my parents visiting): Crab cakes with roasted asparagus and rice
  • Wednesday (my parents visiting): Ravioli with green salad
  • Thursday: Leftovers/fridge clean-out
  • Friday & Saturday: Out of town and not cooking – woo hoo!!
  • Sunday: Probably pizza, since we’ll be returning from Massachusettes, and there won’t be much in the fridge

What’s for dinner at your house this week? Is spring off to a chilly start where you are, too?

Frugal Real Food Meal Plans

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The Big Talk: It Wasn’t Pretty!

A Little Background

If you’ve been reading this blog for some amount of time, you’ve probably picked up on my frustration with my husband’s seeming lack of interest in our finances. I handle all bills and most things finance-related, and I’m more than happy to do so. (Blame it on the strong control freak in me!) My husband is aware of our basic financial picture, but is happy to leave it at that. I’ve tried getting him to track his spending and budget, but he wants no part of it. Conversations about large financial goals and priorities vary from slightly uncomfortable, to downright aggrevating (for both of us).

As I’ve been getting more excited about taking control of our future and the new tools I’ve found to help with this process, I’ve gotten more and more frustrated with my husband’s silence and lack of interest. “We can do this!”, I’ve thought excitedly, and have been baffled by my husband’s quiet intransigence. Why isn’t he excited, too??

I’ve known that a conversation was in order for a few months, but I dreaded it and kept quiet, instead. Things finally boiled over a couple of weeks ago, when I tried to show him the 401k fee analyzer tool in Personal Capital, and he was utterly disinterested. “I don’t know how you can be so unconcerned about our money,” I sniffed. We spent the rest of that day saying as little as possible to each other – mature, I know – until I finally initiated the desperately-needed conversation after we put our daughter to bed.

The Gloves Come Off

I tearfully told him how stressful I found it to be the only one really looking at our finances and trying to better them. I told him I was tired of living with debt, and I knew we could do better. I told him I felt alone and without a partner in our finances. I’ll be honest: I expected a little resistence, but that he’d quickly see my point of view, and apologize for not being more available and connected.

Instead, he was visibly angry when he started speaking, and I quickly realized how far-off my expectation was. He told me how long, stressful, and adversarial his work days feel, and that the last thing he wants to do when he gets home, is hear about how much debt we have, and what I think we should be doing differently to save money. While I found that surprising, I was utterly stunned when he said that I was “constantly” talking about personal finance, and it was driving him crazy.

Resolution – Sort Of

We discussed our differing viewpoints, and realized just how divergently we each saw the situation. This, alone, was very valuable, especially since we were both pretty surprised by the intensity of the other’s feelings. Neither one of us conceded a great deal, but we also agreed to have one, thoughtful, in-depth conversation about our finances each month. Whenever possible, this will take place on the last Sunday of the month. He agreed to be fully present and involved in those meetings, and I agreed to hold as many financial topics and discussions until those meetings, as possible. Most importantly, we agreed to be more open about our perceptions and feelings, rather than let them drive us crazy and eventually boil over.

Have you had any tense discussions with your partner about your finances?

Frugal Real Food Meal Plans

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What’s for Dinner at My House: 2016 Meal Plan #11

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

My Latest Obsession

I’ve been a little quite here lately because I’ve become slightly obsessed with selling things on eBay. About a week ago, I listened to this podcast, and it really motivated me to finally list some things I’ve got around my house. I’ve been photographing and listing things like crazy, and have sold two mascaras that I received for free with makeup orders, and a shirt my mother bought for me, that wasn’t my taste at all.

Weekend Update

On Friday, I finished reading my third book of the year, Bargain Fever. It was a little dry at times, but it gave an interesting history of discounting in stores, the evolution of daily deal sites, and – my favorite – an explanation of the neuroscience behind discounting. Essentially, we get a dopamine rush when we get a great deal, and even more so when it’s unexpected. I absolutely KNOW this true for me, having felt pretty great after scoring good deals at stores, especially Target. (I have such a weakness for stacking Cartwheel discounts, coupons, and sales at Tar-jay!!)

I developed a migraine Friday afternoon, and was in bed at 5:30. This was my first opportunity to test out a prescription medication I had recently been prescribed, and while it took a little while to fully kick in, both the headache and the accompanying nausea were completely gone in about three hours. This was a huge relief, since my headaches typically linger for three days!

I spent Saturday at our area’s Girl Scout Jamboree, and snuck in a little yardwork afterwards. On Sunday, I had a lazy morning at home, then we took a nice, long walk in a state park, as a family. I’m so glad things are looking more like spring, and we can get outside a lot more!

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Checking out sediment and run-off from a natural spring

This Week’s Meal Plan

This should be a pretty low-key week at our house. I’m not working for the next two weeks, (finals week, and spring break at the college), so it’s a little easier to plan and make more relaxed meals. We’re taking an overnight trip to visit friends on Saturday, which means I’m off the hook for dinner that night – woo hoo! Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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What’s for Dinner at My House: 2016 Meal Plan #10

Happy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

I had a pretty uneventful weekend. My daughter started a new session of gymnastics at the Y on Saturday (we’ll be reimbursed for it by our health insurance), and we went straight from there to a birthday party. My husband and I dropped her off at the party, then had almost two hours to ourselves! We watched an episode of House of Cards, which we’ve recently started watching, and really enjoy. When we left our daughter at the party, my husband commented, “I used to hate kid birthday parties, and now I love them!” It’s amazing how things change as kids get older…

Yesterday, we did some chores at home, and my daughter has a second drop-off birthday party. This one was at a studio that offers a variety of classes for children and adults, and it was a cake-decorating party. Each attendee decorated a cake, which they brought home with them. Dessert!

My weekend ended with a the final episode of Downton Abbey. I really enjoyed that show, and will miss spending my Sunday evenings with Cora, Carson, Edith, and the rest of the crew.

This week is pretty normal, schedule-wise. I’ll be working two days, my daughter has ballet this evening, and she and I will have a Daisy troop meeting after school on Wednesday. Over the weekend, I finally went through my seeds, and realized that several things should be started ASAP. I plan to get that going this week, as well.

This Week’s Meal Plan

One of my goals for 2016 is to create and publish a dinner meal plan every week. I enjoy neither cooking, nor meal planning, so I’ve found that having a meal plan is a great way to save my sanity, time, and money. Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

How was your weekend? What’s for dinner at your house this week? Did you watch the final episode of Downton Abbey?

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