Wednesday, August 27, 2008

One more blog about the cake then I swear I will stop....

Ok, so Mary got a few good pics of the cake here. Sooo much better than my one single crappy pic.

I don't want to get a big head about the whole thing, but I am so happy with the job my sister and I did on it. I seriously couldn't have done it without her. Even though doing a cake that intricate is stressful, I had such a blast the entire time. And seeing Mary's reaction made the whole process even more worth it.

Alright, cake talk over. Well, at least until after we finish my cousin Kelly's wedding cake in about a week!!!


Today, Nathan and I were discussing our long weekend camping trip and were very close to canceling it. A long time ago we had made reservations at Babler State Park because it is very close and we had some friends that were meeting up with us on Saturday so we wanted to camp where it would be convenient for them. We didn't really care where we just wanted somewhere that was good for the four of us to just socialize and not worry so much about the actual campground. Well, they ended up canceling, which was fine, we totally understood, but all of the sudden Babler wasn't looking so hot. Besides sleeping and hiking, there isn't a ton more we could figure out to do, and while I want to be relaxed I also don't want to be bored.

So I ended up ducking out of work early to run some work errands and I came home early so Nathan and I could brainstorm on what we should do before he left for work. The site was already paid for weeks ago, but almost every park we wanted was full, at least the ones that had a few more options for activities like floating. Then we had the bright idea to try and find a site near a winery. Graham Cave not only has open sites, but it is fairly close to Herman! One quick phone call and a $5 change fee later, we are set to go for the weekend!

Neither one of us have ever been to Herman, so if anyone has any winery or brewery recommendations please let me know. I know we will definitely be visiting Tim Mill and Stone Hill. And while will be doing most of the cooking at the campsite, Nathan loves German food so I am convincing him that we need to at least do lunch somewhere, so pass along recommendations for that too!

I am very excited, it will be like a mini-vacation. And it couldn't come at a perfect time because I had a stressful few days at work. Because of the change of plans, Nathan talked me into putting just a little bit of my bonus towards the wine-o fund and not all towards bills. Putting less than one Benjamin towards my sanity is probably a good call.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday randomness

It is quite surprising that I haven't posted some randomness in awhile, since after all, I definitely a member of the random blog post club. I tried to make this a Monday randomness post because after all Monday randomness is much better than Tuesday randomness. But anyway....

*I had just about the best weekend ever. Friday, my sister came over to help me with our favorite thing to do together... decorate kick ass cakes for people we love.

The picture is poor quality (you haven't heard that before, right?) because the old camera film hasn't been developed yet, but still isn't it awesome? The sea shells are actual chocolate candies that we made. And the "sand" is a mix of brown sugar and white sugar. After we finished the cake, Nathan and I made a last minute visit to one of our favorite places on earth, Dave and Busters. Yes, Nathan actually managed to get a Friday night off! We enjoyed an evening of games, shenanigans, and detective style questioning with Jenn and Phil.
Saturday was fabulous. Eating, drinking, and girlfriends poolside is always a good mix. Sunday I slept until about one and was pretty lazy all day. At about 8 pm I received a very last minute invite to have a couple glasses of wine with some of the coolest wine drinkers in the Lou. I won't name names, as I am sure you know who I am talking about.
*Work is back into full swing. Even though I have the super early mornings and full days again, I actually am pretty happy work is back to normal. Now I can focus on my own projects and clients. Sure I will miss strolling in whenever I please, leaving early to go to the gym, and taking casual days whenever the hell I please, but it is good to get back into a more steady routine. Plus, my new office is almost done! Hopefully tech will be finished with my computer tomorrow and my phone line should be in by the end of the week!
*I will get to see Nathan for four freaking days in a row!!! He managed to get off on Friday, so we are going to hit the road and take a small camping trip. I just want to hike some trails, relax, and spend some much needed time with the hubs.
*I was very excited to take a new Zumba class that started at my gym yesterday. But I was running late so I just stuck to the elliptical and some weights. I was able to observe the class and I am really glad I did because it is not at all what I expected. Wayyy different moves and motions, so I am not so sure if I will be on board with that next week.
*A happy surprise in the way of a bonus check came in the mail today. Only a few Benjamins, but better than what I was expecting which was nada. I have yet to fully decide how I am going to spend it, but I think it will probably not go to anything fun because I really want to get the credit cards paid off ASAP!
*The dvd player in our bedroom is toast and I am super bummed. Since Nathan works so many nights I like the distraction of a good movie or Family Guy episode as I drift off to sleep. We don't have cable in the bedroom, so now it is just kind of a useless TV.
*I actually have about 500 more random things I could post, but I am running out of evening. You may see a part 2 in the near future.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The budget wrap up....

Let me first start this post by saying that I hate failing. I mean I REALLY hate it. Even worse, I hate admitting when I fail. But here it is in print...I failed my budget. There it goes, I said it. We officially ran out of money at the end of last week and since I am not about to go make us go hungry, we went over budget.

On a positive note, I feel like this month I really put our spending into perspective. Paying cash for all of our groceries, entertainment, personal items, and stuff for Roxie was a real eye opener and definitely made me think twice about some of our purchases. So we are going to continue with that system of paying cash for anything that isn't a bill or gas.

I also discovered that my almond biscotti makes a great gift. A couple times this month I avoided buying gifts by making food. In each instance, the people that received the gift expressed that they felt it was much more heart felt than a gift card or something that took a 10 minute effort that I just picked out of the store.

I also have to say that August was one of the most activity packed, fun filled months we've had in awhile. We visited lots of friends at their homes and as a thank you for hosting we supplied food and drinks which the hosts appreciated and enjoyed. We played games we already owned, caught up on life, and enjoyed each other's company.

I didn't go to Target and don't plan on going for awhile. That is another rule that I want to stick even though we didn't completely succeed with this month's budget.

Even with going over our budget we still contributed over $700 to our cc debt (plus whatever I put in at the end of this week) which is the most we have ever been able to save. We also didn't use the credit cards once, expect for my work related expenses.

So overall, even though we didn't hit our magic number, I feel like we did succeed (in a way) in this month's budget. August was a fabulous eye opener and we have a great plan laid out for September.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I don't even know what to title this

Tonight at about 6 I was in the middle of relaxing/waiting for the spanish rice to finish when my cell phone rang.

Me: Hello?

Boss #3: Hey Teresa it's (Boss #3).

Me: Oh hey (Boss #3).

Boss #3: I don't suppose you are still at FP are you?

Me: No, what's up?

Boss #3: Well, I just got a call from the corporate office in KC campus police called and someone vandalized one of our vehicles. I don't know why they called KC or if it was a vending truck or the K-8 or how bad the damage is.

Me: (sigh) Alright, I will head over there and call you back.

Somebody broke into our vending truck. The good news is the mf-ers didn't get anything because we don't leave anything on the truck besides some chips and soda. Ha! Take that you little shits!

After talking to the campus police, securing the truck, making some calls, and doing a precautionary check of the vending machines, I headed for home. It was starting to just freaking pour down rain so I got off 44 and cut through Kirkwood to avoid some crazy highway drivers. As I am sitting waiting for the light to change, BAM! Somebody hit me.

Once the light changed we both pulled into a parking lot. The woman was practically in tears. I checked out my bumper and it just had a little dent and scratch from one of the screws of the license plate. I told her I wasn't concerned about it and she looked like she wanted to freaking kiss me out of sheer joy. Life is just too short to make a big deal out of one dent, plus I still have my pending insurance claim from December and even though neither accident was my fault, I don't think another claim would be much help at this point. Maybe (hopefully) some good karma will come my way? All I can really do is laugh.

One good thing.....somehow my Spanish rice came out freaking perfect! I had cut the heat off when I left and didn't move it from the stove. When I got home I expected it to be overcooked, but it was freaking perfect!

My new motto maybe, "It's ok to have a bad day as long as you don't ruin the rice!"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Because I can't sleep a post about what will make your mouth water....

Lately I have rediscovered an old love of Actually, I have always enjoyed cooking, but for a really long time I just cooked as a means of necessity. In the past few weeks I have began to get more passion back for my old hobby that used to consume me not only personally but professionally.

Thinking back to my last couple of years of college, some of my favorite memories involved me baking bread. I seriously used to make a loaf of French bread from scratch just about every week. A couple of friends would flock to my apartment just to eat some bread dipped in olive oil and have a glass of wine or beer. We would just hang out and talk and it was absolutely fabulous.

Today I was thumbing through one of my recipe folders and was reminded even more of college. I stumbled upon all the recipes developed during my Quantity Food Production course. So many great recipes and ideas that I was so excited to prepare, and some that even worked their way into a couple catering menus (mmmm....Jerk Chicken) when I was a chef.

One of my favorite memories of my sister's wedding is the making of her cake. (Beth, if you have a pic send it to me so I can post it) The three tiered, purposely uneven, blue and white, Mad hatter inspired masterpiece was a great deal of stress at the time, but when I look back I think my mom and sisters would agree it was such a wonderful experience to make her unique cake. They may not agree about the pain-in-the-ass 350 mini wedding cakes I wanted for my wedding, but I still loved them and loved every long hour of icing all of those.

As I digress you are probably wondering if their is some kind of point to this post. And, no, I guess their isn't really. I recently found out I was doing a couple more cakes and cooking for a couple special events, so I have been thinking a lot about my own personal joy of cooking and creating and just felt like sharing. I feel like lately I have just been on coast a little bit, and I really need to get back to doing things that inspire me, and creating a rewarding dish is definitely one of them.

So over the next few weeks I have vowed to make more French bread, create a couple really cool cakes, and cook dishes that really have some heart and passion in them and aren't just something to do because I need something to eat. Because after all, isn't life so much better if you can find some way to take joy in everyday tasks?

The so many ways veggies

On one of my recent shopping trips I had bought an assortment of veggies that I roasted off while they were still pretty fresh. My mixture of zucchini, squash, green peppers, red peppers, and red onion more than filled a 9X13 glass pan before they were roasted, so we are really talking about a ton of veggies. I was going to put them in a marinade, but was concerned about making such a large quantity of veggies one singular flavor. Instead they just went in with a tad bit of olive oil and salt and pepper that way they are super adaptable.

Here are a few recipes/ideas that I am using for them:

Veggie wraps- (duh, right?) I have just thrown the veggies in a tortilla and used a little Italian or Balsamic vinaigrette to give them a little flavor.

Noodleless veggie lasagna- I am feasting on this currently. I reheated the veggies and just topped with some leftover marinara and cheese from the freezer (leftover from the little homemade pizzas) and added some dried Italian herbs just before putting it in the oven. Sounds really simple, but it is really good. I don't even miss the noodles! Plus, I went light on the cheese to save on some calories.

Loaded Spanish rice toppings- Just a quick saute with some cumin, chili powder and cayenne has made a wonderful addition the spiciness of the rice with black beans.

Fritta/omelet topper- I think most of my veggies will be used up by the other 3. But if not I am going to dice them up and throw them on top of a mostly egg white omelet or fritta with some salsa.

If I am totally burnt out by veggies before they are used all up I am going to throw them into a soup with some rice or white beans and freeze it. I have this great product:

That is a quick solution to making a quick and yummy soup. It is a little pricey at nearly $5.00 a jar, but totally worth it. The chicken base is also awesome and the brand even carries organic and vegan varieties too.
In case you were curious. Here is the cost breakdown:

Zucchini three pack from Aldi: $2.19
Squash three pack from Aldi: $2.19
Red/Green bell pepper pack from Aldi: $1.79 (I didn't use it all, but I will go ahead and round up)
The red onion was from Shop n Save and was by the lb so I don't have a price on that. But I only used a half so I will give a general over estimate that it was $. 50

Grand Total: $6.67 for some great fresh veggies that will provide 6-8 meals easy.

Speaking of money, I am sure you are all on the edge of your seat wondering how the budget is going. Another budget post is coming your way soon!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fabulous weekend

I was really very lucky to have a totally wonderful weekend. Nathan and I slept in on Saturday, ran a few errands, and then took a pretty kick ass taco bar over to our friends Matt and Coley's house for a very awesome game night. The usual happened, we stuffed ourselves, played with their adorable son Seth and quite amazing dog Tucker, and the ladies beat the men to the point that they were embarrassed.

Sunday started out great with our long awaited float down the Meramec. It was great and relaxing until a couple hours in when I realized I forgot to put any sunblock on. Not a huge deal though, because last time this float took us just under three hours and we had already been out there almost two hours. I was oh, so wrong. Last time the river was moving fast, but yesterday was a completely different story. After five hours with virtually no stopping we were finished.

My face and legs were a tad pink , but I didn't think it was too bad. I was again, oh so wrong. I took a shower and started shaking because I felt so cold. Like, heavy, uncontrollable shaking. Nathan suggested I go lay down and about an hour later he checked on me and used some WebMD home treatments on me. They totally helped, but of course today I am still in freaking pain.

Now I look like a big red tomato. I don't think I will be forgetting the sunblock again anytime soon!

Friday, August 8, 2008

What a disappointing book

I am honestly, and truly bummed out. I found "Not Buying It, My Year Without Shopping" earlier this week at the library and I was sooo excited to read it. Unfortunately, it was very different than I expected.
Description from Amazon:
"Other than phenomenal willpower and maxed-out credit cards, what does it take to simply stop purchasing for 12 months? Levine took the plunge--and found it irritating, exhilarating, thought provoking, and humiliating--among many other conflicting emotions. What's an inexpensive substitute for Q-tips? How to best gift a soon-to-be college graduate without spending any money? How to avoid the consumption seduction that lurks in every corner? Levine chronicles her feelings in this almost-weekly diary of the year of nonpurchasing. Many of her points are intentionally provocative; for instance, not buying makes her feel vulnerable and having to ask for help."
What this description doesn't tell you is that 90% of the book is the author's feelings on politics that in a really backwards way relate to the economy and her spending. Now I love hearing other people's political points of view, but what I really wanted to read this week was a book about not spending money and how the author struggled. I mean, what DID they do without Q tips? What did they do when something broke and it needed to be fixed with something that weren't permitting themselves to buy? What affect did not spending have on her and her partner's relationship?
Hopefully "Frugal Luxuries" will be better.

Lets take a break from the budget for a minute

I realized today that I totally forgot to post that my playlist ended up winning one of the slots in the radio contest! It played last night and I almost forgot to tune in and hear it.

On a related note, when I submitted the playlist I included a little tribute to my Dad. It just said that he was one of the big reasons I started to listening to many different kinds of music and he is the coolest, blah, blah, blah.

The convo with my Dad went something like this:

"Dad, did you get my email about my playlist being on air next Thursday."
"Yeah, Teresa, that is pretty cool."
"So you are going to listen, right?"
"Well, you know, your mom and I have golf on Thursday nights."
"Uh, yeah, I know, but you don't have a radio in the golf cart or one that you can bring?"
"But I freaking dedicated it to aren't even gonna listen?"
"We have GOLF."

My father's life seriously revolves around golf. He has set playing days/leagues on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays. Plus, he usually goes every Sunday and at least one more day that week and that is even in the winter. As long as there isn't snow on the ground he is golfing.

When Nathan and I got married on a Saturday at noon my Dad was seriously considering golfing that morning. Which may not have been a big deal, but my mom, sisters and I did the food for all 350 guests as well as the cakes, and decorations. So on the day of their was a ton of stuff to do. When he didn't make it onto the course that day, and I think right before we walked down the aisle he said something about not being able to golf.

Of course, he was joking. And I wasn't seriously thinking he should cancel his Thursday game to listen to my "hour of fame" on the radio. I just wonder, when I eventually (in like 10 years) have a child will my Dad be at the hospital if I go into labor on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday? Or will I get, "We have GOLF."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Presenting my $.38 lunch

You have probably noticed quite the increase in posting lately. Well, that has largely to do with the fact that I took vacation days today and yesterday. One of my favorite perks to being off during the week is that I can cook my lovely husband lunch. Today I was craving the french bread pizza I created over the weekend when I had the brilliant idea to bake a big loaf of french bread, cut it down the middle and top it with some yummy pizza toppings.

Here is the lunch sized version I made today with the mini baguette loaves I have ready to bake in my refrigerator:

It was about six inches long and a couple inches across...the perfect size for lunch. And because of my new found food budget I decided to cost out exactly how much this yummy little pizza cost. This was really easy to do because I had bought almost everything this weekend and I still have the receipt, plus I used to have to constant price out food at work so I have all those conversions in my head.
So here's the breakdown for one pizza:
The French bread half comes out to about .08 this includes the price of flour, salt, water and just a tiny amount of olive oil that I put on the dough while it is rising.
The generous tbsp of sauce is .02
The 5 slices of pepperoni are .08
The cheese is what was most expensive at .20
Grand total is $ .38! Too bad every meal can't be this cheap.
Tomorrow is back to the reality of work

Following up about the cleaning methods

My wonderful sister Beth asked about if the more all natural and cheap cleaning methods I was talking about actually worked. While I haven't used all the products I mentioned in the post because I haven't used up some of my other cleaners, the products I have used work.

Ever since Kristal posted this I have been experimenting with white vinegar and water. I have yet to use it on carpet stains because I still have carpet cleaner, but for general clean up it is great.

I have always used lemon juice when something greats greasy on our stove and it works well.

Some links that I found when I started researching cheaper cleaning methods:

Safer Solutions This one is great because it gives a couple helpful links about specific products
Vinegar Uses I had looked at a book at Borders yesterday while I was killing time that was completely dedicated to all the uses of vinegar. This site has a lot of similar ones, and it gives specific amounts of how much vinegar to use in specific cleaning situations.

I will post more as I find them! I am headed to the library today so hopefully I can get a few more tips this week.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The food budget

Ok, here is the big one....the food budget. The area that I feel like I should be able to do the most good. Because really, even though commercial food service is different then cooking at home for two people it has still helped me pick up some knowledge and skills that should make having a tight food budget easier.

First off, I am going to make sure that we are utilizing our staple items. These are the items I either buy every week or at least have some supply of 90% of the time. Our staple items are:
*Skim milk
*Bell Peppers
*A wide variety of salad dressings
*Lunch meat
*A wide variety of cereals
*Peanut Butter
*Olive or Canola oil
*A wide variety of dried spices
*Generic 100 cal packs or at least a cake mix or something to indulge our sweet tooth.
*Boxed Mac and Cheese
*Bread crumbs

Some of these items are more for Nathan than me. I think he could live on boxed Mac and Cheese. And while I don't mind it, it has sooo many calories that I try to steer clear of it. And although he loves my cooking, he also loves the convenience of being able to just throw a sandwich and a 100 calorie pack in his lunch bag for work. My big must haves are the produce and the variety of salad dressings. I try to eat a vegetarian diet as much as I can during the week, so having produce on hand makes that a lot easier.

We get all these items from one of my favorite grocery stores...Aldi. For those of you that have never been to an Aldi, they are a discount grocer that carries very limited stock at low prices. Most of the above staple items I have listed are 25-50 % less than the cost of a regular grocery store, even when the store is having a sale. And even though their selection is limited, I find it fairly easy to menu plan now that I know the layout of the store and what they regularly carry. I do occasionally stop at another grocer for some items, but I would say that 95% of what I need is at Aldi.

With that said, Aldi isn't the best grocery store for everyone. While they are starting to carry speciality products like organic and low fat, they are still very far from having the large variety that some people desire in their diet. And while the one I shop at is very clean, many discount grocery stores have the reputation for being dirty. Plus, if it bothers you to shop with rednecks, than Aldi isn't the place for you.

Often times when I talk about shopping at Aldi I am asked about the quality of food. I can honestly say their has only been one or two products I have bought their that I wasn't 100% happy with. Everything else has been great. A lot of their produce and meats move quickly because of having such a low variety, so I never have meat or produce that goes bad any quicker than from a regular grocery store.

Besides where I shop I really have about 100 ways to cut cost when it comes to food. When I started to write this post I was trying to figure out how to organize all this information without it being just too crazy. So I think I am just going to take it week by week and tell you what Nathan and I are eating and how I managed to save a few pennies.

Since Nathan and I don't eat together, we each have our separate menus. Unfortunately, Nathan doesn't enjoy a lot of vegetables and I do. I am done trying to make him eat stuff he doesn't enjoy because he just ends up being miserable and perfectly good food gets thrown away. This week Nathan's eating:
*Stuffed Chicken and Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
*Mac and Cheese

This week I'm eating:
*Veggie wraps with loaded Spanish rice
*Maybe some soup?

First Nathan's menu. The #1 thing I did this week to cut cost was turn 1.5 lbs (2 large, 1 medium) of chicken breasts into 8 servings by butterflying them. Nathan could easily eat 1.5 lbs in two sittings. So I had to work a little magic to make them into what he would find more substantial. I took my trusty mallet and pounded out 4 of the breasts into thin pieces. I made up a kind of Cajun style stuffing of toasted corn bread crumbs, spicy sausage (both leftover in the freezer), sauteed onions and bell peppers, garlic, Cajun seasoning, and just a little shredded cheddar and butter to kind of hold the mixture together. I put this mixture on the chicken, rolled it up (no toothpicks needed!) and baked it for a few minutes. A totally easy, yummy dish that Nathan told me tonight that he LOVES.

So I took what would have been a wimpy 2-3 oz chicken breast and turned it into a filling, tasty little concoction that was cheap. Really doing a stuffed chicken breast is so versatile. Another stuffed chicken recipe I use frequently has Italian bread crumbs, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, garlic, Italian herb blend and just a little butter. Again, so cheap, but still yummy. And doing it this way really helps us cut costs through portion control.

One great and cheap item from my menu is my loaded Spanish rice. I bring 1/2 c. water and 1/2 c. salsa to a boil and add 1 c. instant white rice along with cumin, chili powder, garlic, cayenne, and sauteed onions and bell peppers. Once the rice is cooked I add some black beans. And that's it. Good by itself or sometimes I put it in a tortilla with cooked veggies like zucchini and squash. I love it, and you really can't get much cheaper than rice and black beans.

The other item on list this week that is super cheap is soup. I love making soup and it is definitely a good way to stretch a dollar. I usually try to get it on my meal plan once a week, but when it is hot outside it is really tough. However, this week might have to be an exception because of the cheddar mashed potatoes I made Nathan. I am thinking I may have made just a little too much, and mashed potatoes are an AWESOME base for a great soup. I will just cook a potato, make a roux of margarine and flour, saute onions, add the mashed potatoes, milk, more cheddar and some seasonings and I will have a very tasty and quick soup from mostly leftovers that need to get used up anyway.

So that is where we are going to save this week. Again, I have a ton of food tips up my sleeve, but I don't want this one post to get more massive than it already is. My mind is already thinking of another post about of how I meal plan with utilizing leftovers and what is already on hand. But to wrap up the budget series, here is the challenge:

As of August 1st we have $350 combined to spend on food, misc, and entertainment/going out. I combined everything because I think we may have some overlapping into each budget. I have decided that we are majorly dependant upon our debit cards so anything that isn't a bill or gas will be paid in cash so we can truly understand what we are spending. I am also keeping receipts so that at the end of the month I can get an exact amount on what when where.

Our first few days left me questioning if we could really meet our goals, but hey, it is totally worth a shot. Sure we could have some huge unexpected expense come up and we might fail, but I just want to try and see how it goes. Wish Nathan and I luck!

More on the money, the tricky misc budget

The misc part of the budget is really the trickiest in my opinion. Because misc expenses are the ones that I feel are more unexpected. For us, misc is anything that isn't a bill or regular payment, gas or car related, food, or for entertainment purposes. So our misc budget covers a really broad range.
Some examples of items under the misc budget that we recently bought or will perhaps be buying in the near future:
*Toilet Paper
*Drain clog remover
*Weed and feed for the lawn
*A ladder
*Repairs to any part of the house
...and so on....

You can see a really wide range of expenses here, going anywhere from $1 to $1000 and up. So this is going to be a really tricky area to regulate.

First the good news, within the past year, we have done a great deal of replacing/fixing items in the house. We have a new water heater, a recently unclogged sewer line, an A/C that checked out fine when we replaced the furnace, and newer appliances that are covered under warranty. I am knocking on some major wood here, but as far as MAJOR expenses, we should be pretty good for the rest of August at least.

In addition, I have been reading up on more natural/greener cleaners and I just want to give everyone a little tip about using more all natural products. GOING GREEN IS CHEAPER. At least in the general sense. I spend today reading up on cleaning methods using vinegar, baking soda, borax, lemon juice, etc. all of those products cost a fraction of traditional cleaning methods, and it feels great (well at least to me) to do a little part to help the environment! So once all my old stuff is used up, I will be using some of the above mentioned products. Also, while I am waiting for my shampoo to run out I am looking into alternatives for washing my hair. I know that there are other methods out there, and even if some of them are too crazy to consider, it can't help to look into them.

Now onto the bad news....we have several larger expenses that I didn't consider when figuring out how much to allocate for August. First, my contacts. I am in desperate need to go the eye doctor and get new contacts. While I wear mine much longer than I am supposed too, it is still an expense to even get a few. I think I am just going to have to suck this up though, since I need to be able to see! Next, is a new ladder. We had a great, old, beat up 8 ft ladder that was stolen. We didn't really have a place to put the ladder so we had it behind the shed in the back yard and someone took it. (I won't get into how much it freaks me out that we had no clue when someone was in our yard or what else they tried to get.) The one I have my eye on is about $100. It folds up so it could be stored securely and it could be used for many other projects inside the house, where as our old one was too tall to do anything inside the house.

So now I have to put myself through a large questioning before I can justify making this purchase. Do we really need a ladder? Yes, because our gutters need to be cleaned out and reattached to the house within the next few weeks and using a ladder cannot be avoided. It is important to keep up with this maintenance in order to avoid bigger problems later. Would we use the ladder again? Yes, we will have other needs in the house that will require a ladder, but they would be weeks or months away. Is it realistic that we could borrow a ladder? Well we could borrow one from our parents, but they would have to bring it in their truck and it probably wouldn't be worth the gas money. We can ask our neighbor to borrow their ladder, but we need to eventually buy one of our own for projects that will take more than a couple hours.

You may think I am totally insane for having this conversation with myself, but Nathan and I have both bought wayyy to many things not fully thinking about if we really needed them. So now before we purchase almost anything I am going to put myself through this 3rd degree even though it may seem a little drastic. But I bet if you look around your house today you will find at least three items that if you had thought about more before you bought them, you wouldn't of and you would have been just fine.

Another drastic measure we are taking is more Target. Yes, you read that right. Please, remember to breathe in and out as I am sure you just made a huge gasp and now may be are struggling for air. Or maybe you burst out laughing when Nathan did when I made this statement to him. After the laughing subsided the conversation went like this,
N: "But where are we going to get all the stuff we normally buy from there?"
Me: "Well, like what stuff honey?"
N: "Um, shampoo, toothpaste....clothes."
Me: "We just bought toothpaste and we can get any of that other personal care stuff same brand and everything at Family Dollar. And when I was making the budget for August you told me you were pretty set on clothes. Anything else?"
N: "No, I guess not." (sad look)

Don't get me wrong, I love Target. I love being able to buy so many cute things under one roof. But Target is dangerous. How many times have you walked into Target planning on getting just a few things and then somehow end up with an $80 receipt and a cart full of stuff? It happens to me all the time. Now Nathan and I will be going to stores where impulse buying is not quite as easy because you don't have nearly as many options. We can get all of our personal care items at Family Dollar, which just happens to be two doors down from where we get groceries.

Now I am not crazy enough to think I will never walk into another Target again. I am sure I will. But for now, I am just going to avoid it and I think the budget will thank me.

Next up is the post about the food budget. I am thinking it is going to be a looooonnnng post, so be prepared.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

More on Money, the going out part

So I realize I was a little vague on the last post about our spending habits. Basically, I have decided that we need to make a real effort to be putting more towards debt, and the three easiest areas to do that are in going out/fun money, misc expenses, and food.

Our going out money is probably the easiest one to monitor, but not the easiest to break habits. We both love going out to eat on the weekends or going to bar with friends, but some weekends we spend over $100 on going out to one or two places. So our going out costs us some months over $400 and there is no way that can continue. The solution? Well, their are several:

1.We are planning to have people over more for game nights, movies, just sit around and watch the dogs be foolish, and so on. Most of the time, this just costs us buying a little extra food and cleaning the house, which we need to do anyway.
2. We are going to start doing more activities with Roxie. Her favorite thing to do is go for a long walk and with my recent quest to become more active, we really need to utilize the 15+ miles of trails that we have just minutes away from us.
3. In case anyone hasn't noticed, St. Louis is a great city for free/almost free activities. We are really going to start taking advantage of those, including our library cards. I love buying new books, but that expense can really start to add up.
4. We are going to make the effort to see more family and friends. We really need to do this anyway, some of our family thinks we are dead. With family, this will only cost us just a little gas money and will usually come with a free meal. :) With friends, it is going to be easy to get sucked into spending money by going out, so we are going to try to be prepared by making a plan beforehand. I will do a lot of, "I can make the BBQ chicken you love if you want to make those yummy cheesy potatoes, and we will bring over that board game you guys like."
5. We are going to utilize things we already pay for, like the 100s of movies on cable, our Blockbuster online membership, and the 100s of DVDs and video games we own. Really why did we buy these if we don't use them?

We are still budgeting $100 a month (not including the cable and Blockbuster membership) for ourselves though, because it is totally impractical for us to stop our normal activities cold turkey. Plus, this money will come in handy for those almost free activities.

I am sure some of these solutions are common sense to most of my readers. I am hoping the next two sections on misc and food really give some tips that spark some ideas of your own.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

"Money, Money, Money.....Money!"

Lately Nathan and I have been feeling the heat of our summer (and spring) spending. I've decided it is time to take some super drastic measures to get out lives and budget back on track.

We have a plan for August and a very vague plan for September which is very dependent on how August goes. Our main focus is to cut down our spending on going out, groceries, and all the other misc stuff that we end up spending money on that may not be a 100% necessity.

To keep myself on track I have been reading one of my favorite blogs, Sustainable Style. As you may recall my mentioning before, Sustainable Style is no longer with us and I am sooo terribly sad. But through the magic of Google Reader I still have access to all the entries written.

Today I was paging through and found this link. A great, short article on how to avoid spending peer pressure. Of course, some of it is pretty common sense, but reminders of what can help save us money is exactly what Nathan and I need. It also has some great other info on Frugal Living that I plan to read.

I also have an eye on some books at the library that could be pretty cool...I'll be sure and post more once I become a wealth of practical financial knowledge.