Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals!

Doing some shopping? Here are a handful of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals I’m excited about:

Gymboree Sale On Now!

  • Black Friday & Cyber Monday Weekend sale at Gymboree: Get 50% off your entire purchase, + free shipping, 11/25-11/29!
  • Cyber Monday sale at Gymboree: Get 50% off your entire purchase + free shipping, + $25 off $100 with code EXTRA25, 11/30!


Save 40% on all $5 Dinners Meal Plans with code SANTA 40, on Saturday,11/28 and Sunday, 11/29!
Crazy 8 Sale On Now!

  • Black Friday sale at Crazy 8: Save 40% on your entire order, plus free shipping, 11/26-11/28!
  • Black Friday Weekend sale at Crazy 8: Save 30% on your entire order, plus free shipping, 11/29!
  • Cyber Monday sale at Crazy 8: Save 30% on your entire order, plus free shipping, + an additional 20% off with code JOY, 11/30.

CYBER WEEK SALE FROM OLD TIME CANDY! Save 25% Site Wide At & Take Advantage Of Flat Rate Shipping For $9.95 in the Continental U.S.! Use Code: BF2015 At Checkout! Click Here!

Save 25% sitewide at Old Time Candy with code BF2015, 11/23/15 through 11/29/15!

Save 50% on all eBooks and prints from Creative Home Keeper with code thanksgiving, 11/27-11/30!


Save 40% on your entire order at Happy Socks, + free shipping, 11/27-11/30!

  • Black Friday Sale at Janie and Jack: Save 30% on your entire purchase, 11/26-11/17.
  • Black Friday Weekend sale at Janie and Jack: Save 20% on your entire purchase, 11/28-11/29.
  • Cyber Monday sale at Janie and Jack: Save 20% + an additional 20% with code JJCYBER20, 11/30 only.


Cyber Monday sale at Hanna Andersson! Get FREE SHIPPING + Extra 20% Off EVERYTHING, including sale items + 10% off for new customers with code SAVEEXTRA1 , 11/30, only!

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Save 25% on all stock items at Discount School Supply with code CYBERM25, 11/26-11/30!


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My Anticipated Christmas Expenses

Have you heard? Santa is coming to town, and Christmas is just about a month away! It seems that the blogosphere is jammed with posts about budgeting for the holidays, so I thought I’d share my list of anticipated Christmas expenses:

  • Gifts for family. Recipients include my daughter, my husband, me (from my husband), my nephew, my parents, my in-laws.
  • Gifts for teachers & bus driver. Recipients include my daughter’s classroom and ballet teachers, and her bus driver.
  • Babysitter. Unfortunately, my husband’s employer has decided to return to the Saturday-evening, spouses-are-expected-to-attend holiday party this year. They used to do this, and I’ve suffered through attended three or four of them, and then last year, they opted for a nice workday lunch, so spouses were not invited. I really wish they’d stuck with that plan, since I find these parties to be excruciatingly long and boring. And to add insult to injury, we have to pay for a babysitter for our daughter for the evening. Oh, and since they party starts with cocktails and ends after dessert and some speeches, we’re gone for at least five hours, usually more like six. (Have I mentioned that the party is almost an hour away from our home?)
  • Cards & postage. I still love sending (and receiving) holiday cards, but evey year I look for a cheaper way to do it. This year I’m considering going the paper letter route, with a photo included.
  • Tree & wreath. We buy a real tree every year, as well as a simple, real wreath for our front door.
  • Baking supplies. I love baking and giving away holiday cookies (see below). Last year I made a couple of trays and brought them to my daughter’s school for the staff. I also make cookies for our family throughout the season, as well as a batch for the jolly guy on Christmas Eve.
  • Cookie swap party. For the past few years, I’ve hosted a cookie swap with a few friends. Everyone makes one kind of cookie, and brings them packaged up for distribution, plus a few for sampling at the party. It’s a fun and inexpensive way to gain weight host a holiday gathering. In addition to the cookies I make, I’ll serve coffee, wine, and a fruit salad.
  • Donations. Each year, my husband and I donate presents to a family. We’ve gone through two different programs in past years, and this year, we each signed up for one of the two programs on the same day. While I’m happy to donate to families in greater need than ours, we inadvertantly doubled this expense this year.
  • Classroom party. I’m not positive that I’ll have to bring something to my daughter’s classroom holiday party, but since donations have been requested for both their Halloween and Thanksgiving parties, it seems likely.

I’ve racked my brain and tried to make this as comprehensive a list as possible, but as with our monthly budgets, some things may have been missed. (I’m getting better at remembering things up-front, though.) I plan to pick up as many of theses things as possible during this week’s upcoming Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday sales. (No, I won’t enter a store on Black Friday, but I certainly will do some shopping online!)

What are your anticipated holiday expenses? Does your and/or your significant other’s employer host a party on a work day or a weekend? Do you dread it as much as I dread my husband’s?

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2015 Meal Plan #47

A short week of cooking – woo hoo!!! We’ll be departing for my parents’ house Thanksgiving morning, heading to my in-laws’ house on Friday, and back home with lots of leftovers on Saturday. As a result, here’s what’s on this week’s short and sweet dinner meal plan:

  • Monday: Ravioli w/ frozen veggies (It’s ballet class night for my daughter, so dinner has to be super quick and easy to throw together when we get home at 6:30!)
  • Tuesday: Spinach and chickpea rice pilaf w/ shredded chicken
  • Wednesday: Leftovers
  • Thursday: You guessed it – turkey, sides, and pie!
  • Friday: Turkey, sides, and pie (again). My mother-in-law always makes a second Thanksgiving for us at her house on Friday.
  • Saturday: Leftovers from my parents’ house and my in-laws’ house. I don’t repurpose them in any way. We just enjoy them for what they are/were. :)
  • Sunday: Leftovers from my parents’ house and my in-laws’ house. I don’t repurpose them in any way. We just enjoy them for what they are/were. :)

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

Gymboree Sale On Now!

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2015 Goals Check-In #10


Red clipboard with blank checklist. With clipping path.

  1. Try 40 recipes from Martha Stewart’s CookiesI have officially given up on this goal. I’d much rather spend time baking goodies of all kinds – not just cookies – that I know my family loves. I still may try some new recipes this fall, but I’m not aiming for 40 anymore.
  2. Decrease debt total by $5,000. We decreased our debt total by $754.97  in October, not including our mortgage.
  3. Read 15 books. I’ve read 16 books this year (see the full list here), and have been taking a break and catching up on magazines this fall.
  4. Create a weekly meal plan every week. 46 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 clearly over-estimated this goal – by a lot. My final total was 48 pounds. (You can follow my progress toward this goal here.)
  9. Have monthly financial check-in meetings with my husband. In October we discussed our progress throughout the month, paying for our new propane tank, and our preliminary Chrismtas spending plan.
  10. Make-ahead and freeze two meals each month. In October, I opted not to make any freezer meals, to ensure that there would be enough room for my Zaycon Fresh chicken order.
  11. Sell all remaining small business inventory. My plan for completing this goal is here. Effective October 1, all of my remaining inventory is discounted by 50%. Also, all small board books are now $2.50 (regular $6.99). I had another quiet month in October, with only a few purchases through my Amazon store. The value of my remaining inventory is still high, but I’m hoping to make some progress during the upcoming holiday season. (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 is not happening this year. Because of my considerable technical and creative limitations, I’d really like to hire someone to do it for me. However, the money just isn’t available right now. (See our debt totals here.)

How did you do with your goals in October?

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2015 Meal Plan #46

Well, hello there! I’ve been a little quiet here for the past few weeks, mainly because life is so. darn. busy. Although I have only one child and work only two days per week, I have felt like I’ve been drowning over the past weeks. Really, it started a few weeks into the new school year, when ballet class, Nutcracker rehearsals, volunteering in my daughter’s classroom, and trying to make as much side hustle money as possible for the holidays, kicked back into gear. Oh, and did I mention that I agreed to co-lead a Daisy (Girl Scout) troop, despite never having been a Daisy, nor a Girl Scout leader?? Calgon – take me away!! (Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers those commercials…) As much as I love earning a paycheck, I’m kind of excited that the six-week winter break at the college where I work, is about to begin. I’m looking forward to having those weeks to catch up on life.

But no matter how busy life is, we still have to eat dinner! Here’s what’s on my meal plan for this week:

What’s for dinner at your house this week?


Amazing Holiday Sweepstakes!

I’m SOOOO excited about this sweepstakes…

Tea Collection has partnered with Hello Fresh, May Designs, Try the World and Green Kid Crafts to bring you one wonderful Holiday sweepstakes. With the holiday season upon us, we know that you will be exchanging well wishes, warm greeting and gifts with your family and friends. We’re all thankful for the connections we have – both around the corner and around the world – it’s certainly a reason to celebrate! These amazing companies are celebrating by giving away goodies to help your entire family create connections to new cultures, new ideas and cherished loved ones. Three lucky winners will get a $250 Tea Collection gift card, $250 worth of easy-to-make farm fresh meals from HelloFresh, $250 May Designs gift card, a 1-year subscription to Try the World and a 1-year subscription to Green Kid Crafts. The last day to enter is November 22nd, 2015. What a prize! Go here to enter this amazing giveaway!

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2015 Meal Plan #45

After a weekend with a visit from my parents, this week started off busy. I met a friend for coffee, ran errands, did some house-cleaning, read about being a Daisy scout leader – I got roped in at the beginning of the year, and I have no idea what I’m doing! – picked my daughter up from school, took her to ballet, and then attended a meeting of local Girl Scouts leaders. I feel like I’ve been running around almost constantly since the start of the school year. How on earth do you parents with more than one child do it all?? My hat is off to you!


I’m picking up my very first Zaycon Fresh order today: 40 pounds of chicken breasts for $1.89 per pound! We purchased a chest freezer to store the chicken – among other things – but it won’t be delivered until tomorrow. So I’ll cram as much of the chicken into our mostly full freezer and fridge today, then transfer it to the chest freezer tomorrow. The first few dinners on my meal plan for this week reflect the need to make space in the freezer: meat sauce from the freezer on Monday, and chicken cutlets tonight.

  • Monday: Pasta with meat sauce from the freezer
  • Tuesday: Chicken cutlets
  • Wednesday: Vegetarian butternut squash chili
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Leftovers/fridge clean-out
  • Saturday: Breakfast for dinner (pancakes and bacon)
  • Sunday: Spicy peanut noodles

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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November 2015 Budget Plans

Here we go with our third month with a budget! Figuring out what categories to include and how much to allocate for them is still a work in progress. My hope is that I captured all of the necessary categories in advance, this month.

November should be a relatively average month, financially. I anticipate that propane and Christmas will be our largest, irregular expenses this month.

On the income side, November is one of those glorious months when both my husband and I receive two paychecks. I also expect to have some good side hustle income, particularly from my Amazon store and my small business, as we head into the holiday gift-buying season.

Regular Expenses

These are the fixed expenses that we have every month. The amounts may differ monthly, but they are expenses that we have every month. They include:

  • Mortgage (fixed amount)
  • Home equity loan (fixed amount)
  • My husband’s school loan (fixed amount)
  • My school loan (fixed amount)
  • Accord car payment (fixed amount)
  • Electricity (variable amount)
  • Internet (fixed amount)
  • Cell phones (very slightly variable amount)
  • Trash (fixed amount)
  • Life insurance (fixed amount)
  • Food (variable amount)
  • Gas (variable amount)
  • Savings (variable amount, but with a monthly minimum)
  • Household (variable amount)
  • Membership (fixed amount)
  • His and hers slush (variable amount)
  • Dining out (variable amount)
  • Miscellaneous (variable amount)
  • Cat care (variable amount)
  • Entertainment (variable amount)

Month-Specific Categories

Every month, there will be expenses that are out-of-the-ordinary. For November, here’s what I’m anticipating they’ll be:

  • Ballet. It feels like this has become a regular category at this point! My daughter needs a new leotard and tights (and a red lipstick!) for her Nutcracker performance a the beginning of December.
  • Dry cleaning. My down coat has a couple of tiny holes through which the down is starting to escape. I took it to dry cleaner to have the tailor repair the holes before I really need to wear the coat again.
  • Car care. The Camry will need an oil change this month.
  • Christmas gifts. I purchased my daughter’s “big” gift when there was a great sale at the beginning of this month.
  • Office supplies. I’m going to need a new printer cartridge.
  •  Personal care. I’m about to run out of moisturizer for my face. Now that it’s getting cold and dry, this is non-negotiable.
  • Propane. Our new tank was filled at the end of October, but the bill will arrive and be due this month.
  • School lunch. My daughter – who for all of kindergarten and the first six weeks of first grade insisted she would not buy lunch at school – now likes to buy pizza at school on Fridays.

What are you anticipating for November to be like for your budget?

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October 2015 Budget Review

Whew, October was a pretty spendy month for us. It was also our second month operating with a budget. I’m not gonna lie; the numbers aren’t pretty. To see how I anticipated October would play out, check out this post. I knew we would be spending money on a ten-year anniversary trip for my husband and me, and my daughter’s birthday presents and party. What I conveniently forgot was the single biggest item we paid for in October: our new propane tank. Major face palm on that one. Here’s the full budget review for the month:

Categories Included & Results

These are the expense categories I included in our October budget, and how we made out with them:

  • Mortgage (fixed amount)
  • Home equity loan (fixed amount)
  • Husband’s grad school loan (fixed amount)
  • My grad school loan (fixed amount)
  • Accord loan (fixed amount)
  • Internet (fixed amount)
  • Electricity – (I get our statement late in the preceding month, so I know exactly how much to budget for this.)
  • Trash/recycling – (fixed amount)
  • Life insurance- (fixed amount)
  • Phone service – very slightly under budget!
  • Food – way, way over budget
  • Gas – nicely under budget
  • Cat care – way over budget
  • Medical – under budget!
  • Car care – very slightly under budget!
  • Household – under budget!
  • My daughter’s YMCA membership (fixed amount)
  • Dining out – way over budget
  • Savings (fixed amount)
  • Slush – me – under budget!
  • Slush – husband – under budget!
  • Gifts – over budget
  • Birthday party – slightly under budget!
  • Anniversary trip – slightly under budget!
  • Office supplies – under budget!
  • Fall decor – under budget!
  • Personal care – way over budget
  • Misc. – under budget!

Categories I Missed

I already mentioned that I forgot to include our $2,660 propane tank in the October budget. Here are some other things I missed:

  • Halloween (another face palm): Yep, I forgot all about Halloween. We don’t get any trick-or-treaters, but my daughter did need a costume.
  • Ballet. My daughter needed a new leotard and tights, as well as a few things required for the Nutcracker performance she’ll be in next month.
  • Books. My daughter’s school has their big book fair in October, and since she’s a pretty early reader, I’m happy to have her pick out a few books that appeal to her. Plus, our purchase helps support her school, making it $21 well-spent in my mind.
  • Clothing. I’ve mentioned my neighbor who brings over her daughter’s outgrown clothes for me to go through and purchase at near-garage-sale prices. I didn’t anticipate that she would be bringing it over in October. My daughter is now set with high-quality summer clothing in sizes 7 and 8!
  • Entertainment. I think this one needs to be a regular category moving forward, especially as we head into the cold months, when free outdoor activities are pretty hard to come by. In October, my husband took my daughter to see a movie in the theater (this was the first movie she’s made it through in a theater, without being frightened by something and having to leave!), I took her to the local children’s museum on her birthday, and she took a $1 ride on a carousel.
  • Dry cleaning. I had a pair of pair of pants and a scarf dry-cleaned.
  • Christmas gifts. I picked up a few books for my daughter’s birthday, but when I laid out all of the presents we were giving her, I decided it was too much and decided to hold onto the books for Christmas.
  • Fines. Darn library DVD fines get me every month!
  • Subscription. I have a subscription to the local Sunday paper. (Truth be told, I only get it for the coupons and the grocery sale flyers.) I didn’t realize it would be up for renewal in October.

How did your budget work out in October?

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November 1 Debt Totals & Side Hustle Income

October Overview

I finally went back to work at the very end of September, after my extended summer break. As a result, I received two paychecks – plus earned a good amount of side hustle income – in October. At the same time, October was a very pricey month, starting with a tenth anniversary trip, and ending with the purchase of our own propane tank, and our daughter’s sixth birthday and party.

November 1 Debt Totals

Here’s what our (non-mortgage) debt looks like now:

Home equity loan: $58,234.23 (-$242.99)

School loan #1 (mine): $3,139.27 (-$92.33)

School loan #2 (my husband’s): $55,637.92 (-$249.13)

Car loan: $3,165.81 (-$170.52 )

I’d really like to pay off the car loan in 2016. (I believe the scheduled payoff date is in the spring of 2017.) It’s for our Accord, which is a year younger than our paid-off Camry, but is at the same mileage, (163,000), since my husband drives it a lot for work. It’s in great shape, but I don’t like owing money on high-mileage cars. The thought of having to replace the car before the loan is paid off frightens me. I’m using the information on amortization tables here, to calculate what our payments need to be to get it paid off by the end of next year.

October Side Hustle Income

I had a great side hustle month in October! I earned from a nice variety of sources, including taking surveys, getting cash back for grocery purchases, and selling children’s books through my small business and my Amazon store. Also, I was very pleased with what I earned at the local children’s consignment sale. I wish these events happened more than just twice a year! Here’s how my October side hustle earnings broke down:

Children’s consignment sale: $148.75 (Read how I make money at children’s consignment sales here.)

Amazon store: $86.64

Swagbucks: $6 in Amazon gift cards

Surveys (Ipsos I-Say): $15

Small business: $20.77

SavingStar: $18.97

MyPoints: $10 Home Depot gift card

shopkick: $2 Target gift card

Children’s consignment store: $46.40

How was your October?

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