Thursday, December 30, 2010

What to do with Gift Money?

What do you do with money you’ve received as a gift?  I always hate the idea of it being mixed in with everything else and just being part of my everyday spending.  Somehow that doesn’t seem right to me.

When  our parents give us money as a gift, they tell us to use it where we need it most.  But what if where we need it most is making a payment on a credit card?  That doesn’t seem right to me either.  Someone else shouldn’t have to put their money towards the hole I dug all by myself.

Sometimes when we receive money, it’s towards a specific thing.  Last year we asked all the grandparents to help us pay for the activities the kids wanted to do when we travelled to Drumheller.  Shawn and I paid for gas and tenting, and we paid for all the attractions and mementos the kids wanted with money that was given to them at Christmas.  We’ve also been given money and told “ I know you’ve been wanting to paint that room ( or buy that light fixture,or whatever project) so here is some money to help you out with that”.

This year, the kids were given money from grandparents, and we’ll use that towards paying for an activity.  Then we can tell the giver that “ we used to money you gave them to pay for swimming lessons” and that person knows what we used it for.  I like being able to share with them what we used the gift for.

Sometimes, when I don’t have a good idea for the money yet, I just put it in our savings and think about what would be good to use it on.  This year at Christmas, Shawn and I received a sum that was large to us and totally surprised and astounded us.  So We have the happy job of deciding what to do with it.  We decided that we would use some of it to get us to our $1000 which we are saving first following the Dave Ramsey plan.  We were getting pretty close, and finally getting there is a great gift.  Some of it will be put aside to re-paint our house in the spring.  This was another job we knew we needed to do but weren’t sure we’d get enough saved.  Not having to worry about that is a great gift, and I will do a few extras that I might not have been able to if we were scraping together just enough.  I can’t wait to get rid of the hideous yellow glass 70’s light fixtures on the front of our house, and now thanks to the Christmas gift, I will do that when we re-paint.  After that, I think there are still a few dollars left, and they will set in our savings account, marked so they don’t get mixed in, to await a special project.

What do you do when you receive money as a gift?  Do you make sure you use it on something special, set it aside?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Looking forward to the New Year

Okay, I haven’t been writing in a while.  I took a bit of a hiatus because our family had a lot going on. We’ve been sick with a cold, busy with commitments, and of course, it was Christmas.  But now I am looking forward to the new year, and have lots of post ideas rattling around in my brain.

I am looking forward to starting the new year off on the right foot budget-wise.  We made it through Christmas in good shape, but it’s time to get back to planning where to spend our money.  We were fortunate to receive some money as Christmas gifts, both for us and the kids, and it’s fun deciding what to do with it.

We have some fun things to look forward to this year….mainly Baby #4!  This is the main reason I’ve been sick lately and now that we’ve surprised our families, the secret is out.  We need to figure out what to do about bedroom arrangements, for one thing, but there are lots of other changes ahead.

I used lots of neat gift ideas this season, and I’ll still share them, in case you want to use them for upcoming birthdays, or store them away for later.

I had a great Christmas, but I am ready for things to get back to normal around here, and to do come clearing out.  This weekend Shawn has extra days off, and I am looking forward to the family time.  I hope you and your families had a great Christmas too!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Life Insurance

Today we had a meeting with a representative from FaithLife Financial.  Looking into insurance has been one of those things we knew we should do, but never got around to.  And, I admit for me, Life Insurance hasn’t really been something I considered part of our financial health plan. But it is! 

At first, it was hard for us to think about spending that extra each month, when we are trying to pay down debts, but really, neither of us wants to leave the other with all that debt alone!  Plus, our advisor gave us some good advice.  Ditch the mortgage insurance through the bank.  You pay the same thing the whole term, but you have declining coverage ( as you pay off your mortgage).  And, once you need it ( your spouse is injured or dies) THEN they put an application through.  So you may not qualify, after you need it!  You’ll pay that premium for years, and could still not be eligible.  Instead, he recommended having enough life insurance to cover your mortgage.

So we sat down, and came up with how much coverage we need.  And let me tell you, it’s waaaaaaaay more than I might have guessed.  To cover the mortgage, and replace Shawn’s potential lost income long enough to get on my feet, as well as cover a funeral added up to a lot.  We covered both of us for that amount, so that if something happens to me, Shawn will also be okay left to take care of all the kids without my contributions to our family. 

Then we discussed insuring our kids.  No one wants to imagine that eventuality, but IF something happens, I do not want to worry about how I will pay for a funeral.  We added a bit more coverage, too.  If Shawn wanted to take time off to grieve, I’d like to have the freedom to make that choice. 

We also know that if something happens to both of us, the guardian of our children will be left with enough to care for our kids without worries.

Once we knew what all we needed to cover, we added up what the premiums will be.  And you know what? It wasn’t that much more than what we are paying for the mortgage insurance alone.  Once we cancel the bank’s mortgage insurance, and have the new insurance in place, we’ll only be spending a little bit more each month.

He also recommended that we meet with a mortgage broker to see if we can move our mortgage to save money, so we’ll be looking into that this week.  Next up after that? Wills.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Real Tree or Fake?

Real.  There, shortest post ever.

Just kidding, of course I have more to say about it!  Ok, I know everyone has a preference, and ours is a real tree.  I love the smell, and look of a real tree.  I plan on spending the money for a nice one every year.  We usually get a Balsam or Fraser Fir.  I know they cost more, but I just plan on spending what they cost.  I love the ideal “Christmas Tree” shape of them, and oh the heavenly smell when you walk by it!!!

I live in an area completely surrounded by pine trees and places I could just walk out and cut one down for free, but they aren’t the type of pines I like.  So every year, I pay for one again and again.  I don’t care how many artificial trees I could pay for over a lifetime of buying real trees.  I have never seen a single fake tree that looked real enough to fool me into liking it.

If you like the fake trees, you are probably making a better budgeting decision than me, but I’m happy wasting money on the trees every year.  Going to pick out the tree with the kids is one of my favourite Christmas moments every year.  Baden is always determined to find a big, heavy tree. “It has to be a 60 pounder mom!”.  I’m not sure just what that means to him, or why he thinks it needs to weigh 60 pounds, but each year, Shawn dutifully lifts each tree until he declares one of them to be “the” tree.  Colleena wanted it to be “as tall as Mommy” this year, and Lily? Well, she just didn’t care, all the trees made her say “ Priiitty!”  Then Shawn does all the hard work of hauling it home, cutting the base, putting it up and rotating it until everyone in the family is satisfied that it’s perfect.  Then we deck it out in lights and ornaments, drink egg nog and have wonderful family time!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Throwing the Budget Out the Window…

This last few weeks, where we’ve all been sick, I have fallen behind on entering each purchase into our budget/ spreadsheet.  And you know what?  Trying to remember what that $30 at Wal-mart was for over a month ago is impossible for me.

So, I’m cutting myself some slack.  Yup, November is a write-off as far as tracking the spending goes.  I just gave up, decided not to feel bad about it and moved on to December instead.  But when I sat looking at the budget sheet, trying to decide how much to allocate to each category this month, I found I just didn’t care.  So, I’m cutting myself some more slack!!

I paid all the bills, and what’s left is left.  I picked up the Christmas presents we still needed to buy, and mailed the parcels.  I stocked up on groceries, and I’ll fill the gas tank.  I already know we are not going to get any money to the savings account this month, and that’s okay with me.  I’m going to just enjoy this holiday and not feel any guilt at all.  I’ve done everything I can to keep the gifts simple and inexpensive, and now I just want to watch the joy on my kids’ faces.

I’m still going to try and track what we spend this month, and I’ll get back on track for the next year!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Saving on Christmas: Wrapping Paper

I haven’t been writing much this week, since everyone in our house has been sick, but I have still been getting ready for Christmas.

I am a gift wrapping nerd.  I like perfect corners and fancy ribbons.  Every year I savour the task by wrapping everything at one sitting, drinking egg nog and listening to Christmas music.

Just a quick post today on one of the easy ways I simplified wrapping presents.  Years ago, I was watching this show where an organizer said that everyone has these drawers and boxes full of things to wrap presents.  Paper, ribbons, bows, bags….it all starts to take up a lot of space.  Plus, they charge a ridiculous amount of money for that thin paper!  His tip is one that I have followed since: wrap everything in one color paper.

You can buy “poster” rolls of paper, either white or brown, in craft areas or  at a business supply company.  They are dirt cheap.  Wrap all your presents in white paper and keep a couple different colors of ribbon around for different occasions.  Silver is pretty for weddings, anniversaries or Christmas.  Red and Green for Christmas, bright colors for birthdays, spring colors for Easter etc etc etc.

I have been doing this for a few years, and generally pick a theme and wrap most presents the same.  White paper with red ribbons looks like candy canes.  One year, I wrapped everything in the brown paper and used gold and silver pine cones as my “bows”.  It looked very old fashioned and pretty.

Then, as a bonus, when you are ready to ship your items, you have brown or white paper to wrap the parcel for shipping, and you still only have to have one roll of paper in the house!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Entertaining on a Budget

This time of year, lots of us host parties for families and friends.  I’m sure this can really add up sometimes.  I’ve seen a zillion shows teaching you how to set a table with a fancy centerpiece and special themes etc.  I can’t imagine hosting a dinner party like that, nor am I sure I would want to be at one!

Having a party at our house pretty well always means pot luck.  As long as I can remember our group of friends has been doing it this way, and having a great time while we’re at it.  Nobody comes to my house in a cocktail dress, or wears their high heels while they’re here.  That would definitely cause a safety hazard trying to move around all the people, kids, and toys! Excuse me while I pause to laugh at the mental image of this!!  Usually the person hosting provides the meat dish, though not always.  Those visiting bring salads, veggies, munchies or desserts.  Some people bring some of each!  In fact, if you’ve had a busy day, you and your whole family could probably attend without bringing anything and we’d STILL have too much food.  It’s an ongoing joke that this group of friends has never been together and been hungry!

We have some hilarious memories from past get togethers.  Once we cooked a huge fancy supper for all the pastors and staff of our church, as well as their spouses.  Everyone made a different dish to contribute.  We arranged babysitters, and drove them all to a friend’s acreage to dine in front of the fire.  One guy dressed up as the most hilarious looking  waiter, with his pants hitched up to his armpits, a wig on his head and his back bowed, proceeded to serve everyone in a bad Italian accent.  We had the only kid in the group then, our son.  He was about eight months old and spent the entire night on Shawn’s shoulders.  We ate pizza in the kitchen and laughed ourselves silly that night.  One person forgot their camera and had some hilarious pictures to show for it…the toilet bowl (clean, I swear!), Shawn’s fleet net…  I still laugh at those pictures.

We’ve had pot luck fondues.  Everyone came and brought a unique fondue.  I have actually needed the three fondue pots I got from our wedding all at the same time!! We’ve even had unplanned potlucks! We call that “whatcha got”, and it usually happens like this: Its 5 pm, and suddenly a friend realizes they need Shawn’s help with something, say butchering a deer for example.  We bring whatever we had started cooking for supper to the friends house. With they were cooking and what we brought, there will be enough for all families.

Yes, when we’re hosting a party, we do tend to cook complicated dishes.  And that probably costs us more than our average weekday meal, but we love it.  I mean I love to throw a party!  We’re getting ready to host what is usually our biggest party of the year, Grey Cup.  We throw out an invite for everyone to come over, soak in the hot tub and watch it in HD on the big screen.  Shawn smokes ribs and burgers ( yes, we smoke the burgers).  Last year we fed 32 people, including kids.  We shipped the kids to the basement toy room, and crammed into the upstairs living room.  It’s 12X14 and we packed three couches in there for the event.  Yup, it was snuggley, and we had to open every door and window, but it was a blast!!  Shawn sets up a TV by the hot tub, and one at the BBQ station, so no one misses a minute of the game. It was NOT a happy house when the Riders lost!  This year, we’re expecting a houseful again, and I’m sure it will be loud in here!  We hired babysitters to play with the kids.

I’d like to think my house is welcoming.  I put a lot of effort into cooking fun things.  It takes us three days to make all the home made rubs, spices and sauces plus smoke the ribs.  But I think, I hope, what people look forward to most is relaxing here. I’m just glad you came.  You don’t have to worry !  Yes, you can eat in the living room.  Spilled something on the carpet? Who cares, it’s old and stained already, and I have a carpet cleaner.  Drop something on the couch? Bah! Its leather, it’ll wipe off! Dropped it on the floor? Uh, the dog will eat it!  Break my glassware? It’s cheap, I got it at IKEA and I have a cupboard full!  I have extra crocs and housecoats for your trip to the hot tub, and someone always forgets their socks somewhere!  I have never given, or expected a hostess gift at a party with our friends, but I also never worry about having to impress or outdo my friends either.

I don’t know if any of you reading feel pressure to throw a Martha Stewart-like party, but I’d encourage you to just relax and enjoy your friends.  They didn’t come to judge you, or your house.  Sit down and stop fussing! They came to be with you!

A few snaps from last year’s Smokin’ Grey Cup BBQ

DSC_0209                               20 lbs of moose and deer burger went into the smoker

Nov036                    Ribs, tenderloin, backstrap and burgers all cooked and ready to dig into!

Nov047                                               Some, though not all, of our guests!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Who’s on Your Christmas List?

How do you decide who to buy for, and how do you set the budget?

Surprisingly enough, this has never been a fight for my husband and I.  We’ve never thought that “well we bought for your sister, and spent this much, so we have to spend that on my sister!”.  Our family groups are so spread out, and not interconnected, and there are SEVEN of them! Yup! Seven different ”sides” of the family.

Each of those seven groups has such different traditions, and expectations that we just do for each family what suits that group.  Our siblings are so varied, in ages, where they live and just how they are related to us that it makes sense just to decide on a person by person basis.

Each parent and their spouse gets a photobook, and so do all the grandparents. Even those that are related to us through marriage, because we are just as close to them and love them the same anyway.  Latching onto the photobook idea has simplified this for me!  

We buy for my sisters, who live on the opposite side of the country from me.  There is a large age difference between us, as they are from my dad’s second marriage, but I’ve never thought of them as my “half” sisters.  These wonderful ladies are still teenagers, and a lot of the years Shawn and I have bought for them, they were still kids.

I stopped buying for my step-brothers when we all became adults.  Now that all three of us have kids, we do buy for each other’s kids, which is more fun anyway!

Shawn’s siblings took a bit more time to work out.  Once his brother had kids, we stopped buying for each other as adults and just bought presents for the kiddos.  However, his sister , while an adult, was single some of those Christmases.  So we bought for her, even though we didn’t buy for his brother.  See? person by person basis, hee hee!

In my father-in-law’s family, everyone over 18 ( every one now except our kids) goes into a name draw.  We used to set a spending limit, but once all the cousins and spouses were in the draw it got really hard to know what to get each other.  Two years in a row, I drew the wife of Shawn’s cousin.  I had only met him once, and her not at all then!  A few years ago, we settled on the idea of buying calendars.  Everyone needs a calendar!  Plus, it made it even simpler to mail when some of the cousins lived in Egypt and Europe!  So this year, Shawn’s aunt is on our list.

We don’t really exchange gifts with our friends anymore.  There are just a couple families that our kids give small gifts to their kids.  These are practically cousins to our kids.  We tend to just get together and have a nice evening instead.

And that’s about it for our list. 

Did I miss anyone??  Shawn and I limit what we get for each other, but we each help the kids pick out something small for the other.  Then of course, there are the things we, and Santa, buy for the kids.

It’s taken us a few years to simplify it down to this, but Christmas is so much less stress for us!  I actually enjoy getting everything wrapped and ready to mail.

Who is on your list?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Thursday: Christmas Music

thankful thursday_thumb[2] 


Lately I’ve been thinking back to when my husband and I first moved here and started attending church.  That Christmas there was a lady named Jill playing the piano at church during the worship service.  She took a moment to share with the congregation why she loved the music at this special time of year. “ It’s the only time of year when we get to hear songs about our saviour played everywhere in public!”.  And you know, she was right.  All other times of the year, songs about Jesus are not played over public radio stations, or in most stores.

Now, instead of getting tired of the many Christmas songs out there in malls and stores, I hum along and think how great it is that people are hearing at least some Christ centered music whether they consciously think  about that or not.  I really love the rich tones and beautiful lyrics of Christmas carols!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Beating the Budget Busters: Christmas:Stockings

Ok, so we all know Christmas is a huge budget buster, and there is just no way I can cover it in one post.  The first thing on my mind is stocking stuffers.

I want to keep it to around $20 per pretty red sock to fill each kid’s stocking.  When I first started trying to come up with a number this sounded absurd to me.  How can I need  that much?!? It seemed too high.  But unless I am going to fill it with junk that will break right away anyway, there is just no way around it.

Some of the items I’ve been picking up include hair brushes, elastics and clips for the girls( around $13 for all of them).  Paint and brushes to divide up among all three( $15 all together), their favourite kids tooth paste ( $3), and hot wheels( color changers ones, which are $4 each) are also in my stash.  A refill for Colleena’s easy bake oven was almost $7 all by itself!  I have a Lego magazine subscription for Baden, which I got for free ( you can check it out at too) and will roll up the first one and stick it in his stocking too.  Some dress up items, like a mini parasol and pretty purse are also in hiding for the girls.

In years past, I have also made a stop at value village.  Those little bags full of items matched up together make great stuffers!  I’ve gotten a whole bag of model horses, which are over $10 each for $1.99.  Also, the bags of gaudy jewellery make great stuffers as dress up items for the girls.  Farm animals, Barbie furniture, and tub toys are all items that get lumped together and sold for a couple bucks.

Other things I have considered are new tubs of play-do to refill their supply, markers and stickers, coloring books and papers.

I always top off the stocking with a few candies, a candy cane, and of course, a Christmas orange.I think I have enough stuff hidden away for the girls, and might have to get just another thing or two for Baden, but I am almost done the stockings!!

What are your stocking stuffer ideas?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thankful Thursday

thankful thursday_thumb[2] This Thursday I am thankful for Thankful Thursdays.  Stopping to think each week of something that I am thankful for makes me see good in every week or month no matter what challenges or setbacks we’ve had.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Many Christmas Presents?

Over the last couple of years, while Shawn and I have been trying to simplify our Christmas list, we have steadily cut down on who we buy for, what we spend, and how many things we buy for someone.  I love giving gifts, so it’s hard for me, but in reality we just can’t afford to buy for everyone we’d like to.

We agreed that each kid would get one gift from us, one from siblings ( the girls go together to pick out one thing for their brother etc) and one from Santa.  The thing is, it’s hard to stick to this!  Yes, it’s all they need, since they have a million things already.  Besides they have a lot of grandparents and great-grandparents as well as aunts and uncles who they also get gifts from.

It’s me who has a hard time sticking to this.  The problem is, with just one planned item, I feel like it has to be THE perfect present, the one thing they have really been wanting all year.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to get the best gift, since I am only buying the one thing.  Also, there is inevitably some cute thing I see, after I have already purchased what was going to be the only present, some great price or some toy that wasn’t released until December.

In reality, we end up buying the kids one “big” present, that thing they have been wanting, and a couple of other smaller items.  Santa does the same.  While we insist they are only allowed to ask Santa for one thing in their letter, they get a couple little things from him too, as well as their stockings.  Things like the board game that goes to all of them are also wrapped and under the tree.

At our house, Christmas is about Christ, and not the commercial stuff, and cutting down on the number of things we give is part of keeping our focus in the right place.  But it is also our pleasure to give our kids good things that they would like.  I love seeing their faces when they realize they got the thing they were hoping for.

How many presents do you plan on?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gift Traditions

Every Family has Christmas gift traditions.  Do you open one on Christmas Eve, and the rest in the morning, or all of them on the eve?  Do you fill stockings?  Do you have a tradition of drawing names among the adults, or of making homemade items?  We all celebrate Christmas gifts with traditions that can be unique to our family.

One tradition I loved growing up was from an Aunt of mine.  Every year she gave me a nice set of pyjamas and some perfume or shampoo that was way more pricey than I would  normally use.  Each year I looked forward to her present and always opened it on Christmas Eve so I could wear the new pjs….except I had to rethink that once I got into my teens and she sent me a bra and panties set.  Not what a 14 year old wants to open in front of her brothers and male cousins!  Okay, but that memory makes me laugh now!

We’ve started some tradition gifts of our own too.  Each year since having kids, we’ve given them a board game for Christmas.  I can’t say enough good things about them.  So good for kids, fun for us, and a great activity for family nights.  It’s getting a little harder now that our kids are further spread out in age and abilities.  Baden loves chess.  Lily is not interested in anything except throwing the pieces around.  Colleena is somewhere in between, loving games like Candy Land, Guess Who, and Life on the Farm.  Othello has been a good compromise between the older two, since it’s strategy is like chess and appeals to Baden, but it’s simplicity attracts Colleena too.

Over the last few months, both Baden and Colleena have been interested in “mystery solving”.  We’re reading them Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.  I got out my old “Clue” the other night, and we played it with the kids.  Colleena had to be on a “team” since her reading, at 4, is limited and she couldn’t read all the words on the clue sheet each player gets.  They both loved it so much, however, that it sparked an idea for my Christmas list.  This year, their annual board game will be Clue Junior.  I’m looking forward to hours playing it and solving the mystery of the missing carnival prizes.

Do you have a tradition gift that you give your kids each year?  What are your favourite children’s board games?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Movie Clubs: Worth It?

About six months ago, we joined the Disney Movie Club.  Even I am not sure what possessed me to do it, since I am usually leery of movie/music/book clubs.  Maybe they had some great promo, I don’t know.

Whatever caught my attention, I thought it through.  Our family buys lots of Disney movies.  I like the classics most, and every once in a while, I like the new ones too.  When we signed up, we got  7 movies, for  a total of 13 dollars ( shipping, discounts etc).  I ordered all classics, like Mary Poppins, Fox and the Hound, Aristocats, Sword in the Stone, and others.  I ordered a couple of live action ones too, from the Narnia series, since that is a set I’d like to collect as a family.  After the initial order, you have to agree to buy four more movies in the next two years.  I did not anticipate a problem, since we seem to buy more than that anyway.

Six months down the road, we have ordered our four mandatory movies, and then some.  We got to pre-order Beauty and the Beast, and now we get to buy movies at an even steeper discount.

I think my favourite thing is being able to buy classics that you don’t always find stocked at the store, like the original Winnie the Pooh series.

This year, as most years, each kid gets a movie they’ve been wanting for Christmas.  I got great deals on three movies for the kids : Beauty and the Beast; Winnie the Pooh: the Search for Christopher Robin; and a Bug’s Life.

For our family, it was definitely worth it.  Look into it, you might like it too!  And hey, if you want to sign up as my friend, I’ll get a free movie too!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kids Allowance

Reflecting today on kids and money.  I definitely think it’s our job as parents to teach our children proper attitude towards and handling of money.  As Christians we need to teach them that God provides for us, and we are to be wise with money without loving it. 

I didn’t learn great money lessons as a kid, so I have been reading, and talking with friends about ways to teach our kids about money.  One of the ways we have decided on as a family is an allowance.  At our house, it starts in grade one, and kiddo gets 50 cents a week per year of age.  For our son, that’s three dollars a week.  Kids get an allowance to learn how to save and spend money, not because they did chores.  That would make chores optional.  Chores at our house are done because you are part of the family and are not optional.  We chose that amount because it’s enough that he can choose to buy a treat with it, or save it instead.  We don’t want him to have so much money that he can just get everything he wants all the time.  That wouldn’t teach him about saving and waiting and looking for a good price on something.

It works out to about $12 a month, and we pay him monthly.  We started with weekly, but we’d forget to have the $3 in change each Sunday.  So instead, we transfer the $12 from our account to his on the first Sunday of the month.  Putting it in an account also means that change is not being lost all over the house.  The thing he most wants to buy is new games for his DS, and used ones are $20-25, so it takes him two months to save up for one.  I think that works well, it means he has to wait, but not so long that it discourages him.

I was proud of him when he got the DS in the first place.  He sold some of his old toys that he didn’t play with anymore, and saved some allowance, and was able to buy a used DS for himself. 

Another nice side effect has been awareness of what things cost.  When he was being too rough with an item, I asked him what he thought it might cost.  The answer was $40.  “Now, if you break that, and had to pay to replace it, how long would it take you to earn $40?”.  He’s good with math, and knew in a moment “4 months mommy”.  Without saying another word, he stopped beating on the item.

We decided not to give an allowance to our 4 year old yet.  There were several reasons.  First, she has nothing she’d like to save up for, so the concept would be lost on her.  She also loses a lot of the change anyway.  Plus, it’s nice for our son to have some lines that give him more privileges that come with being older.  We’ve told her that Baden is in charge of having money left for special treats, but mommy and daddy are still in charge of having money for her treats.  If we walked to the store for a treat as a family, we would tell our son to bring money from his piggy bank, but we would give our daughter money from our wallet when we got there.  She’d still get to pick her own treat, and if any is left over, it can go in her piggy bank when we get home.  She can look forward to this extra privilege when she starts grade one, and they can both look forward to a “raise” when their birthday rolls around.

There are also optional jobs that the kids can do to earn extra spending money.  We’ve chosen two things so far, one is moving a load of laundry ( from washer to dryer, or from dryer to basket).  I picked this one, because I have front load washers they can reach easily, and because I hate bending down to dig out that last sock which is always stuck in the back of the washer machine.  The second job is pairing up socks.  As I fold laundry, I toss all socks in a little basket, and when it gets too full, I offer the kids the chance to pair them up.  Apparently this is good for their math and thinking skills, but really I just like the help.  They earn 25c for either job, and I pay them immediately out of a change jar we have around, so I don’t forget.  They are very excited to get a quarter because they know that’s the coin they need for the candy machines, hee hee hee!

One thing I would like to work on a bit more is the idea of tithing.  I want our kids to learn that as an expression of gratitude and an acknowledgment that everything we have really comes from God, we give 10% to the church.  Shawn and I already do this, and we let our kids see this.  I would like to make a focus on each child taking their 10% to give to the collection during Sunday school.

So that’s where we are with kids and money.  I want to teach them better, so they don’t have to repeat the mistakes with debts that Shawn and I made.

How do you deal with kids and money?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thankful Thursday – The Craft Closet

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This Thursday, I am thankful for my stash of craft supplies.  Lots of times, I hate having to organize them, and I was tempted to chuck a lot of them when we moved.  There are more times than I can count that having this mix of stuff has saved me time and money.  If I want to do a craft with the kids, or make a gift for someone, and even sometimes fix something, I usually have that odd crafty bit that we need.  I have unusual stuff, and stuff everyone’s got.  I have stamps, material, sewing supplies, knitting and crochet supplies, cross stitching stuff, wallpaper sample books, scrapbooking papers markers and cutting tools.  I have fabric markers and paint, I have beads that you string and beads that you melt.  I have letter sealing wax and enough tissue paper to choke an elephant. I have jars of buttons! I have glue and a glue gun, tapes and pins.  I have a zillion stickers, and that’s just my stuff!  My kids have pipe cleaners, googly eyes, clay, bells, wire, stamps, paint, feathers, pompoms, and buckets more.  Ha-ha, and that’s just what’s in the house.  Shawn’s workshop is a treasure trove of woodworking supplies, metal working and all kinds of creative building materials.

So from now on, instead of bemoaning the room full of craft stuff, I am going to remember all the great crafts, activities and gifts I have been able to make because I have this assorted collection of things!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Moving on Already

As I take down the Halloween decorations, and wrap up the awesome time we all had, I have to admit I am already preparing for Christmas in my mind.  I have been an early shopper for years, for several reasons.  First, I have to mail gifts to both coasts and the mail is cheaper and faster if you mail it the last week of November.  Seriously, the difference between Nov 30 and Dec 1 is surprising.  Also, I make a lot of gifts by hand, and that takes time and preparation.  Besides, in our area of the country, November feels like winter and time to think about winter holidays.  Shopping over a longer period of time helps me to spread the costs over several pay periods and lessen the impact on the budget.

So before I embark into all the many things I do for Christmas, I wanted to take a DSC_0098minute and celebrate the success of our Halloween this year.  I set out to have a free Halloween, and did it!  The kids loved their costumes this year.

Lily was a “little house on the prairie” girl.  So cute!  This outfit, straight out of the dress up bin, got her lots of OOOs and Ahhhhs.  She loved trick or treating, totally understanding the concept quickly.  At each house she said “ treeeet  treeet?”  and “peeze peeze?” Very sweet!!


Colleena was Snowwhite, also straight out of the dress up bin.  She loves the Disney Princesses, because, of course, she herself is a princess!  She was a real trouper trick or treating, going as far as her big brother who was driven to get the biggest haul ever.  The dress fit right over her winter coat. Ahhh, Halloween!


Baden’s costume was a bit more work.  We’d originally planned to use an old umbrella for wings, but we
could not get the fabric dyed right, or cut right, or to sit nicely on his shoulders.  It was a total failure.  We had to take a night to regroup and re-think the whole plan.  Shawn was thinking of things we had around the house, and came up with garden landscape fabric, or weed-stop. 
The light material did not weigh down the wings, or need help to support it.  We hot glued two layers together, creating a neat effect of having ribbing in the wings. Then we just safety pinned them to his coat.  The light shined through just a tiny bit and the material looked gauzy.  They turned out great!  Baden was able to wear them to the indoor carnival, then add layers underneath and be perfectly warm for trick or treating.  He was so happy with this costume, and was proud he was the only bat.DSC_0939

At the start of the Halloween season, I was feeling disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to decorate as much as I usually do ( over the top).  I was out for a walk with the kids when I saw some cute little ghosties made from stuffed white socks.  What a great use for those mismatched socks.  Except, none of mine are white, because white socks do not cross the threshold of this house!  However, I do have a closet FULL of material left over from projects, bought at sales and stock piled over the years.  I even have some from when my mother in law cleaned out her stash!  Surely, I could find something!  I found a large piece of white-ish material, and cut out a bunch of circles, and stuffed them with the clipping bits from in between the circles.  I let the kids draw faces on them all, and hung them up around my house.  So cute! And free!  It was a great craft to do as a family.  Now, I will simply untie them, throw out the stuffing and stick them back in my decorations box for next year.  The kids love seeing things they have made proudly displayed around my house, and it was a great free craft.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Quick Update on Some Good Deals

I LOVE Christmas, celebrating our Saviour’s birth, being with family and friends.  It’s one of my favourite times of the year, but let’s be honest, it’s also the mother of all budget busters.  I’m already on a mission to beat this budget buster!

Just wanted to toss out a quick post to let you know that shutterfly   ( ) is having a 50% off sale on 7X9 photo books until tomorrow.  These make awesome Christmas presents, and I also have 3 10% off coupons that you can use.  Let me know if you want one!

Click on this link to see the album I made for Shawn for Christmas.  When I joined shutterfly, I got to make an 8X8 hardcover album for free.  This is his Christmas present this year.

Also, check out Vista Print ( ) right now photo calendars are free!

Both sites have other great deals and offers! 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cost Break-Down : Chocolate Milk

Ok, the idea for this one came from a friend of mine who said she often buys the 4L jugs of chocolate milk for her family as a treat, since it can’t cost that much more than adding the syrup to it at home.  Honestly, I like the taste of the pre-made stuff better, so I bought a jug in my last grocery run, and set out to compare.

The first problem I ran into was that the Nesquick bottle does not actually say how much you are supposed to use!  I guess they figure you should add as much as you like.  To create a standard, this is what I did.  According to Nestle ( who uses the Canadian Food Guide to base this on) a serving of milk is one cup, and a serving of Nesquick, according to the nutrition label is one tablespoon.  To make sure this is close to what one might actually use, I mixed a glass to taste.  It was about what I had normally been putting in when I mixed it for my kids, really saturated, but none left in the bottom of the cup either.

So, if one cup is a serving of milk, there are 16 cups, or servings in a jug of milk.  16 times one tablespoon, or 15ml, is approximately 240 ml.  That’s about half the jug of the 500ml bottle of Nesquick, which costs $4.97

Here’s the breakdown:  If you took one jug of 2% milk ($3.97) and added enough syrup ($2.50) it would cost you $6.47!  Buying the 4L jug of chocolate milk is $4.89!  So I guess I’ll be buying the pre-made jugs more often.

Also, if I send chocolate milk in the school lunches, instead of buying it through the milk program, the difference is: $0.75 at school, $0.40 using syrup and milk, or $0.31 for the pre-made.

I gotta admit, this one surprised me!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thankful Thursday

This thursday, I am thankful we made it through this month.  With all the extra expenses of vehicle repairs, unbudgeted items and school costs, I am just glad we held it all together.  Yup, I had to put off some things I had budgeted, but we covered all the extra things that came up this month, and I still have $16 in my bank account and $20 in cash.  It's not alot, and sometimes the progress feels too slow, but I am not discouraged.  I choose to be glad that we are not in the hole, and $20 more will go into savings!

Window Plastic....Worth It?

Ok, you know the stuff I mean, that plastic window film that you shrink into place with a hair dryer?
I'm considering putting it on some of our windows this year, especially in bedrooms.  I think putting it in the living room would be a waste of time, since the kids would have holes in it before I had it up.  I have never done it myself, and was wondering if anyone knew what the actual energy savings are supposed to be?  I checked the saskenergy website, and they don't give an specifics, just that it saves some energy.

Worth it or not?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cost Break-Down : Bread

Ok, I have to start with a disclaimer.  I set out to find out exactly what it costs me to make bread, but I don't really care if it is less than store bought.  I love homemade bread so much!  The aroma of it cooking in the kitchen is such a warm and welcoming smell!!

I figured out the cost of my most used recipe, which I got from a book called the 250 Best Canadian Bread Machine Baking Recipes  . I use the Sally Lunn Bread recipe from page 25 as my go-to white bread recipe.

for a two pound loaf: Use sweet cycle.
1 1/4 cup milk ($0.31)
1 egg ($0.16)
1 1/4 tsp salt ( works out so low, its less than a fraction of a penny)
1/4 cup sugar ($0.07)
3 Tbsp margerine ($0.32)
3 1/2 cups flour ($0.30)
3/4 tsp bread machine yeast ($0.16)

Which adds up to $1.33

I don't really know which bread to compare it to though.  A loaf of bread at the store is $1.67, but that's a sandwhich bread, and this one is more for with a meal.  It is half the size of the store loaf, but four times as dense.  Store bought loaves definetly toast better, and probably make better sandwiches, although we don't eat many of them.  When we want to make bush pies, we definetly buy bread.

The cost difference isn't as much as I thought it would be, so I guess when I'm busy and behind on the baking, I will just give myself a break and buy the odd loaf or two.  This is kind of an expensive recipe, having milk and eggs in it.  I might try findig the cost of a few other bread machine recipes, and see if I can find a cheaper one.

Do you have a go to home made recipe?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Family Time VS. Overtime

Yes, our goal is to get out of debt, but at what cost?  This weekend, we bumped into this dilemma …family time or overtime?

My husband was offered the opportunity to work this weekend, one he was supposed to have off, and earn some overtime.  Of course we need the money.  Next month we have some serious budget busters on the way.  Shawn needs winter work boots, and if you’ve ever shopped for steel toe, steel plate, chemical proof winter boots that are good to minus 50, you know that they aren’t cheap.  Of course, Christmas is also on the way.

But it’s not easy for me to lose out on having him home.  My love language is time.  If you wanna show me you love me, spend time with me.  Just hang out, be here and part of whatever is going on.  Plus we’re all tired and have head colds.  I’d just like to have him around.

I have considered working a part time job to help our family budget, but because Of Shawn’s job responsibilities, it’s impossible to work around his job, and paying a babysitter would negate the idea all together.  I have tried selling things from home, but it’s just not my strong suit.  Besides, then I would have more time away from my kids, and I think being with them is just more important. But, I can choose to sacrifice some of my time with Shawn so he can work.  So as much as I don’t like it, I am grateful that he is able and willing to work overtime.

This weekend, we compromised. During the fall, all of his weekends off are spent hunting, so we’ve been lacking some family time already.  Shawn stayed home Saturday, and is only working the one day, Sunday.  We spent the day puttering in the yard, getting it tidied up, which is something I love to do.  Then we watched some shows with the kids, popped popcorn and snuggled on the couch….A great weekend!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Life Without PRINT

My printer is dead.

I honestly didn't think I used it very much, and would never have guessed I would even miss it.  My husband had a clue how much I used it, but apparently I did not.  I'm so used to it being there, that I never thought about how much I relied on it.  A new recipe I'd like to try? Print off a copy.  Crochet pattern? Print off a copy.  Kids want a season or holiday specific colouring page? Print one off!  Hubby makes a map of a huting area? Print it off!  Wanna spell check something? Print it off and read it with fresh eyes.  Make a personalized present with an iron-on transfer? Print it off!  I have so many specialty papers for different projects, iron-ons, stickers, cardstock...all for a printer I never appreciated until now.

It's not coming back to life : my youngest warped the tracks the cartridges travel on.  Even turning on the printer sends my computer into a tizzy requiring a total re-boot.  I can't eat a printer ( althought the mental image of me eating an ink cartridge with ink running down my chin IS funny) so I am not buying a new one.  How do I live without a printer?  Ok, I admit, I have mooched off friends to get them to print the odd thing  for me.  And if the item was needed for the school or church, I brought it to them on a flash drive and got them to print it themselves.  As for the rest?  I guess I can write out recipes on a scrap paper instead or photocopy or print things at the library. 

Friday, October 22, 2010


I have finally started this week applying some of my brain power to the kid's halloween costumes.

Both of my daughters chose items from the dress up clothes.  One will be Snow White, and the other will dress up like a "little house on the prairie" girl, complete with bonnet! ( I wore it as a kid, can't wait to see it on her!)

My son's took a bit more planning, he is determined to be a bat!  I found a neat idea off the net about making wings from an old umbrella.  My husband spotted a huge table umbrella in the garbage and grabbed it.  I'm going to cut it in quarters, dye it black and use two of them for the wings. 

And last week, the freebie at the grocery store, for a purchase over a certain amount, was halloween choclate bars, so I'm all set!

Looking foward to halloween!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thankful Thursday- No More Atmosphere-ick Pressure

This week I am focusing on how the atmosphere in our house is changing.  We're not as stressed over all, because we know where are money is going, and where it went.  We know that we have all the bills for the month covered and a plan for the Christmas.  Our whole home feels less pressured, I think we're all more relaxed.  We are on a family adventure together, and I'm sure that one day it will be a great tale to tell.
I'm working on some more ideas for having a great home atmosphere that I heard from the ladies in my on-line Bible study, called " A Fresh Brewed Life".  Today, I had instrumental music playing, instead of the kids stuff I often listen to.  I found that music without words feels less busy.  Today I even lit a candle for a bit ( with three kids, this is hard to do!) !

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Laundry Soap Update (with recipe)

Ok, I get alot of questions about the laundry soap, so I thought I could answer a bunch of them here, and share the recipe in case you were interested.

Yes, it cleans awesome!  It even got the chemical smell out of our hot tub bathing suits, which no other cleaner has done.

No, it does not bother any of the people with sensitive skin/eczema in our family.

Yes, it is SUPER easy and fast to make, and I will definetly be doing this as an on going thing.

drum roll is the recipe:
I got this from the Duggar's book: 20 and Counting!

1 bar of soap. ( apparently you can use any soap that doesn't have lots of extra moisturizers, like dove would.  I used a sunlight laundry soap bar, found in the laundry isle.  I like the slight lemony scent, but you could use any soap you like the smell of.  I found that the sunlight left no trace of scent at all once the clothes were washed.)
1 cup washing soda  (found in the laundry isle as well, and no you can't just use baking soda, the pH is a bit different, and it's important)
1/2cup borax  (Also in the laundry isle, basically a water softener)

Grate the soap into a saucepan.  Cover with water, and cook over med-low heat until it's all disolved. 
While soap is cooking, add washing soda and borax to a 5 gallon pail.  Pour in the hot melted soap and swish it all around until well mixed.  Fill bucket with hot tap water, seal the lid up well and let sit overnight.

Their directions say to mix this 50/50 with water when you put it into smaller containers to use daily ( I used a container from my old laundry soap), then use 1/3 cup for front load washers, or 1 cup for top loading machines.  The mixture is a pearly gel.  I found that I don't need to dilute it for my machine, I just use even less.  make sure to mix up the bucket as you take some out to use, and maybe shake your daily use container before you use it for a load.  I find that without all the chemical additives in commercial soaps, the ingredients seperate a bit.

Also, I put some of the undiluted soap in a squitry bottle, and use it as a stain treater, instead of buying expensive ones.

There are lots of similar recipes out there on the net, and even some dry detergent ones too, wh not give one a try?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Free Glasses!!

This week, I saw a friend of mine mention a free pair of glasses give away on Facebook.  I was all over that in seconds!  Apparently was giving away 10 000 pairs of glasses! 

My husband has been needing glasses for a long time, and wearing his contacts all day was making his eyes very sore.  But he needs a high prescription, and in the past the cheapest we could find his lenses was $500!  His insurance coverage barely covers 6 months worth of contacts, so new glasses were just not in our budget.  He's been wearing his prescription sunglasses around the house at night! ( and yes, I did often sing "I wear my sunglasses at night" to him hee hee hee...)

I made him take a coffee break from work, run to the optometrist and get his prescription printed out.  He raced home, and we picked out a pair we both liked.  I ended up having to pay $50 for the upgrade to the lenses he needs.  What a steal!!

Ok, so by the time you read this, the sale will be over, but has amazing deals all the time, you just need to have a copy of your prescription.  They even have a virtual mirror where you can "try on" glasses on your picture.  Really cool!  Complete glasses start at $38 and this includes scratch resistant coating and anti-glare too!  Check it out, and tell me what you think!!

More Stubbling Blocks!!!

Remember last month, when I made a list of things that kept tripping us up so we could get better at avoiding them?  Well this month, we already have a whole new set!!

The first thing seems to all come from school.  Two hot lunches in one month, book orders and fundraising requests, and I only have one kid in school!  I guess I am just going to have to start a budget catagory for random school stuff and plan on $20 a month.

The second thing was shoes for my son.  I swear they fit him two weeks ago!! But he's been wearing his crocs since it was so warm out lately.  This morning when he went to put his runners on, he could barely cram his feet into them!  Yes, this is something I thought he wouldn't need, haha!  So off to walmart today to find him something.

The good news, we're still on trak to finish the month without going any further into just required some shuffling!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kid's Activities

This week I was discussing with a friend which activities her kids were trying out this year : hockey, boxing, music lessons, skating... and I admit it, I was a bit jealous (except maybe about the hockey, I would not want to spend that much time at a rink!).

I have always been a person who believes that kids should not be in more than one activity at a time, a philosophy my husband and I discussed before we even had kids.  We both grew up in the country, and our parents were not going to drive to town everyday.  Besides, with each of the three kids in my husband's family being in one activity, it was already lots of trips into town.

Plus, I totally understimated the cost of kids activities before we actually had kids.  Soccer must be about 40 bucks, right? Um, where we live its more like $150, plus equipment.  Lacrosse and skating are about the same.  Not sure how much baseball is.  My daughter's ballet last year was $37 a month for ten months, plus a $60 costume, $20 registration fees, and pictures and a video of recital.  My son wanted to look into Scouts Canada's Beavers program.  It's $160, plus uniform.  It's basically a great playgroup with crafts and activities, but none of the badges, skills and outdoor education that we would want.  So I guess it's not for our family.  With three kids, the cost of activities gets prohibative pretty quick!

I want my kids to get to try things they are interested in, to develop skills.  Sports and activites teach so much more that you might think.  Ballet taught my daughter about being part of a group, following directions, listening to the beat of the music, and more.  Plus she looked really sweet in her fluffy white tutu!  We decided not to put her in ballet this year, since we can't really afford it.  Besides, she can always take more ballet lessons in a year or so.  Tiny tot ballet is not exactly critical.  My kids are all pretty young still, how early do they really need to be enrolled in stuff?

I'm also a homebody, and don't want to be away every evening of the week.  I believe firmly in the value of large quatities of time spent just being together as a family.  Plus, with three kids, its hard to find windows of time to participate.  I'm still scheduling around naps and an early bedtime.

So why, if that's what I believe, is this hard for me?  I think partly, because we can't afford it.  It doesn't always feel like this is what we are doing because we want to, but because we have to.  Also, I worry that my kids won't get the opportunities others will.  I know my son, who is in school, often mentions all the neat things some of his classmates get to do.

My kids have seven grandparents and six great-grandparents (seriously), so we've asked them to consider this year, as a Christmas gift, paying for an activity instead of another toy.  But, lots of activities start in the fall, and my kid's birthdays all fall after Christmas too.  I suppose they will just have to pick a spring sport, or a summer camp at one of the many awesome local bible camps.

I'm still looking for great low or no cost kids activities.  Our library has a great book club program, but, in my opinion, it runs at dumb times.  One is mid-afternoon, which is nap time for my youngest, and the other is 7:30, which is bed time at my house.

So for now, I guess I will wait and keep looking.  Do you have a limit on number of activities or days you will be away from home? When do your kids start activities?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Reflecting on "Merge and Purge"

Last night, I hosted the merge and purge party I had mentioned earlier.  A bunch of ladies came over to my house toting large bags of clothes they no longer liked/fit/wore, as well as some goodies.  Once we were all here, we started pulling out all the clothes and showing them to the other ladies.  Some of us were sure that no one would have anything that would fit us because we were bigger/shorter/taller than others..but everyone found some awesome stuff anyway!

At first, everyone seemed appologetic, explaining why they didn't wear it, or feeling bad that they hadn't brought as much to get rid of as others did.  After a few minutes, everyone started to laugh together and relax.  Clothes were piled up and tossed around.  Ladies were changing in every bedroom, bathroom and corner of my house. 

The atmosphere was so fun! We started encouraging one another  "common, try it on!" and " That colour is really great!" and "look how awesome that fits you!".  Several of the ladies are really trendy and awesome at creating outfits, and they were giving suggestions as to what to wear an item with : "That would look great with those boots you have!".  By the end of the night, we had all laughed so hard, and been lifted up by our friends.  Some outfits were tried on by everyone...even a pink tube top from...well you can guess when it was from !

At the end of the night, we boxed up everything that was left and sent it to a local community room to be used by others who would need it.  Then we broke out the goodies and laughed some more.  And finally, we all changed into our swimsuits and laughed some more in the hot tub.  I said good night to the last guests at 1:30am. 

This was such a great experience, I feel like I got a new wardrobe, and it was really fun to encourage one another.  Now, when we see each other, out at church or visiting each other, we can say "nice sweater" with a wink and a smile and remember who much fun it all was!

Thanks Girls!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Ahhhhh.  This week I have alot I am thankful for, but it requires some explanation....

Friday night we set out for Kindersley, where I was looking forward to visiting my Aunt and Uncle, my cousin, his wife and their son.  Shawn planned to spend the weekend hunting.  While passing through Saskatoon, at almost 9 pm, we had to brake VERY hard to avoid feeding the car in front of us their back bumper.  With a fully loaded van and trailer, we almost didn't make the stop.  Just outside of Saskatoon, near the potash mine, I made Shawn pull over because the smell of smoke was very thick in our vehicle.  It turns out the emergency stop broke the cylinder that engages the brake, and locked it up.  The brakes were glowing red hot, and smoking.  The van could go no more.

Sitting on the side of the road, with three kids and the dog, we could have gotten upset, but instead we took a moment and evaluated what to do.  Some of our very good friends were at their parent's house near Outlook.  We were able to call them and they had a vehicle with enough seats to come and get all of us by 10 pm.  We ended up crashing at their parents house on thanksgiving weekend, when they already had 6 other guests and were trying to get their harvesting done! Shawn was able to limp the van into another friend's house in Saskatoon the next day, order the brake parts and fix it himself.  Saturday night he was able to get out and hunt afterall, and downed a 300 pound mule deer buck.

Sunday, though my cousins were planning on leaving in the morning, they decided to stay until after noon and we were able to visit with them for a bit after finally making it to Kindersley.  Then we enjoyed a wonderful Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with my aunt and uncle, helping them in a few small ways with their last day of harvest.  My kids played in Grandpa's grain bins and ate uncooked wheat to their hearts content ( they love that!).  I was able to show them the farm I visited so often as a kid and the forts I helped build.

So, after the weekend I have a huge list of thing I feel thankful for!

I am thankful we didn't hit the car.
That we stopped when we did, and nothing had totally broken yet
For good friends who will help us even in the middle of the night, move their kids out of bed and come and get us, and that they had used the vehicle they did this weekend.
For the friend's house we were able to use when they weren't home, and the unknown to us renter of their house who helped Shawn with the brakes.
That Shawn could get the parts, and knows how to fix this himself.
That because of this money makeover we had some savings and didnt have to panic about how to pay for the parts.
For the parents who welcomed us and loved us on Thanksgiving and Harvest.
For the deer that will feed our family.
For the eventual safe trip.
For the cousin's extended stay.
For my Aunt and Uncle who spoiled us.
That I was able to see the harvest off my dad's land this year, his last since he is selling it.
That my kids could see the farm, and play with so much freedom.

That none of these things was a surprise to God, who knew all about it and had all the help we could ever need lined up for us.  God is Great!!

oh, and one more thing...for those of you would would get this, on the way home we passed Jim Shockey with a big non typical white tail buck in the back....brought an extra smile to our faces.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cost Break-Down : Hot Chocolate

Mmmmmmmm.  I LOVE hot chocolate.  Our family buys those super tubs, and I make it for the kids when it's cool out, or when we just want to sit together and enjoy some family time.  One night we were visiting Shawn's aunt and she made us the most delicious cup of hot chocolate I had ever had.  I asked her what kind it was, and she laughed.  "I just whipped it up" she said.  I asked for the recipe and she just chuckled more and said " I don't know, some cocoa, some sugar, and mix it all up with hot water".  I hate people who cook like that, because you can never get a recipe, but on the other hand, I cook like that! Haha!

So began my search for a great homemade recipe.  There are lots out there on the net, some include snooty imported chocolate from somewhere I've never heard of, and some insist on "dutch process" but I dont even know what that is!  I tried a few different ratios, when I decided that simple is usually best.  1 part sugar, 1 part cocoa.  Perfect!!  My kids thought it was more chocolatey than the mixed stuff and if you dont like it that sweet, you can always cut back on the sugar.  I always mix my hot chocolate in steaming hot water to disolve everything, but I only fill the cup 2/3 full.  When everything is mixed well, I fill the rest of the cup with milk.  Its perfect drinking temperature and its nice and creamy.  Even better if you have some cream in the house you need to use up.

Ok, not only do I like it better, I feel better about using it.  I read the ingredients on the side of the store bought stuff, and the list is so long, it blows my mind.  And it includes fillers, preservatives and things I can't even pronounce.  Cocoa, which is essentially the main ingredient, is almost at the bottom of the list.  There is more hydrogenated vegetable oils in the mix than cocoa (!!!!!).  Don't let me get going on how terrible hydrogenated fats are for you!!  So, after reading the list, I didn't really care if it was cheaper, I'll be drinking homemade from now on!

But being the math geek that I am, I still had to figure out the cost.

500g container of store bought is usually about $5.

To make the same amount of homemade, I ended up with less actual weight ( the difference must be in those fillers, yuck!)

300g of sugar ( 1 1/4 cups) costs $0.39
100g of cocoa(1 1/4 cups) cost $1.00

you could add 1/2 c of powdered milk if you want, which would add a few more cents, but I like adding the milk when I make it.

yup, thats $1.39 instead of $5, and 100g less fillers and junk you don't wanna eat anyway!

Make Do

Make do with what you've got...its an expression that is alot easier for me to swallow than "do without".  I'm pretty inventive, and I enjoy the challenge to my creativity.

I've been finding lots of new uses for things around my house, and new recipes too.

One night, for some reason, I found myself reading the side of the Penaten bum cream. "Good for excema.." Hmm, really? Why not, if its soothing to diaper rash, it will be soothing on my dry chapped hands, right?  I tried it out and I love it!  Then, I was looking up ideas for a home made facial mask, since I am out of the one I love, and I can't afford any more of it right now.  Guess what I stumbled across?  Zinc Oxide creams are great for acne, skin redness and facial masks. Really?  So, I admit, rubbing bum cream on my face seemed wierd at first thought, but why not?  I LOVE it!  I put it on right before bed, and either rub it right in, or rinse it off before I go to sleep.  Wow! My skin feels so great!  And I've always got diaper cream around!

One night, I found myself needing to make my son's lunch for school.  I have no bread.  I cannot make bread because I have no yeast.  I found a depression era recipe that raises bread with baking powder, of which I had just enough.  After feeling so proud of myself, I laughed when my husband just looked at me and said " mean like bannock?".  Of course, I hadn't thought of just making bannock, or biscuits for that matter, but I did find a new recipe I like!

I miss my central vac, truely I do, but I can't afford to fix the motor right now, so I am making due with the upright I have.  I am thankful that atleast I have the upright!

What creative uses for everyday products have you found?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thankful Thursday

I am so thankful for all my friends who are helping me with this journey.  Sharing ideas and tips, planning this blog, supporting us in tough choices, encouraging us and just being along side us.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Meal Planning

Recently, I've become a huge fan of meal planning.  No more wandering around with no idea what to cook at 5 pm!  I make a list, take out what I will need and make that meal for supper.  I try to plan almost two weeks at a time, because with three kids in tow, I don't want to grocery shop more often than that.  But you know what? For the first little while, it actually cost me more money....huh?

I realize what my problem was.  If I sat down to plan a meal, it was a bit more elaborate that it might have otherwise been.  I didn't plan on deer sausage ( freezer's full of it) mashed potatoes and carrotts with harvard sauce.  That's a meal I would throw together with no plan! Buuuuut, I would plan more meals with ingredients and sides I had to go out and buy.

Another reason it fell flat was that I was only planning on supper.  With three young kids, I actually make atleast 6 meals a day ( Breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, supper and bedtime snack).  So I didn't always have things on hand for lunches, or good healthy snack foods.  At 11:45, I'd be faced with no useful items in the fridge and a husband on his way home for his lunch break.  I also failed to buy different, more lunch kit friendly items.  With a son now in school full days every day, I need different items.  Sometimes I would buy more fruit than we could eat before it spoiled, and sometimes we'd be out three days later.  Do you count how many pieces of fruit you'll need to eat in a week?

One week, I actually sat down and wrote out what we would eat every single meal of the day...but that was alot of work and planning.  Besides, just because it says yogurt in the snack colomn today does not mean that my 18 month old wants that today.  So I can't be that regimented either!

I'm learning on the go now, trying to plan most meals for a two week period.  Trying to buy a few snack items each trip, and a few lunch items for days when we don't have left overs.  I need to make sure we have lunch kit worthy items, like sandwhich meat and fruits.  I try to leave a few dollars left over from that pay period for those items I invariably forget, and the top ups on things we run out of, like milk.  I wing whatever spaces are left with what's in the freezer and cupboard, and I'm trying to simplify our meals more often.

Some resosurces I love are all the Sandi Richard cookbooks, complete with weekely menus and shopping lists.  I also like .  She posts new meal plans everyweek, with shopping lists.  She has them all categorized, and you can choose all kinds of meals, including ones on a budget.  You can follow eat at home on facebook too.

How do you meal plan?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Learning to Budget

Ahhh, its the beggining of a new month, so its time to sit down and come up with a budget and spending plan for the month.

I am not a natural budgeter.  We've tried so many times in the past to stick to a budget, but I always ended up spending whatever, and then hoping the numbers would somehow match up at the end of the month.  Since starting our money make-over, we are trying to stick to Dave Ramsey's system.  We sit down together at the beggining of the month and plan a whole month at a time.  We start with my husband's  lowest possible expected income ( it fluctuates ) and start deducting in order of priority.  I can always go back and adjust his income on our spreadsheet if he ends up with more pay than we expected...which also adds to the bottom line in the nifty spread sheet I made.  We pay the minimums on everything, and divide up whats left among the more flexible catagories, like groceries or gas.  Then we take those amounts out in cash, put them in seperated spots and spend only that.  I have to figure out how to live on that amount, not figure out how to make the amount I wanted to spend fit into the budget.  Whatever is left goes to the emergency savings fund, until we reach $1000 ( Dave Ramsey's suggested number).  When we have an emergency fund, we'll start hammering away at debts.

This plan also means we have to sit together and evaluate what things will or may come up this month.  For example, this is hunting month at our house, so we need to figure in the cost of tags, ammo, and the added fuel bills.  If there is a birthday in the month, we need to plan on the amount we can spare for a gift..and stick to it!  If someone needs to renew their drivers, or it's school photo month, it all has to go into the month long plan.  Then Dave Ramsey's rule is...if its not in the plan, and its not a major emergency ( think water heater exploding, or engine lighting on fire in your only vehicle) you do not pay it.  Many things that might come up can wait until the next month's planning session.  If an emergency does genuinely come up, a mid month re-meeting is called with your spouse ( if you have one) to decide how you will cover that bill (take it from the emergency fund etc).  Well, that is the plan anyway!

This is our third month trying to stick to this, and we have not been perfect, but thanks to God, we are making progress!  In the first couple months, we realized that there were a few items that seemed to trip us up, because we forgot to check if we needed them.  First was dog food, oops, sorry pooch but I can't let you go hungry!  We also forgot to check if we had enough toilet paper to get through the month...I can't eat it, but that was definetly an exception!!  The first month we forgot to plan on enough laundry soap, but now with a 10 gallon pail in the laundry room, I don't think we have to worry about that one anymore!  I also didn't leave wiggle room for things like my son's school mate having a birthday and inviting him ( which I might add was dumb of me since they have been friends for three years, and I knew when this little guy's birthday was!).  I'm learning, and each month, we add to our list of things to double check, and hopefully, we won't make the same mistakes again!

Do you have some things that seem to get left off your plan?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Free is out there!

I've been recieving so many good tips on free stuff from some of my friends.  One that I have already followed up on is a printing site.

There are tons of things you can have printed for free, and you only have to pay the shipping.  I took a look at what this week's free specials were, and tried to see how I could make use of them.  Personal note cards were on sale, and I know my kids love to write letters, so I got them each some personalized with images they would like. I  made personalized stationary for my son's teacher. Canvas totes were on sale, picked up one of those for free too.  Note pads, sticky notes, pens...the list was huge!!

In all, I ordered $90 worth of product, at no charge, and I had to pay just $20 shipping.  Check it out for yourself!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beating the Budget Buster : Halloween Edition

Halloween is always a spendy time for our family.  Mainly because I am a Halloween NUT, and I love to make awesome costumes for my kids.  Most years, I have bought all new material and sewed them great outfits.  Some years have included a duck, a hunter, a teddy bear, a knight, a fairy, a ninja..and a few more.

This year, we are challenging ourselves to spend zero dollars on Halloween.  We've told the kids that they have to use something we already have in the house, make something with materials we already have, or borrow what they need.  Now, this should not be too difficult!  We have a ginormous rubbermaid tub ( seriously all three kids can fit in it!) of dress up clothes, boxes of extras in closets and more accessories than can be listed.  I have a closet full of material.  The challenging part is changing our habits!

I also ususally enjoy munching on Halloween treats all month long, but this year I am stregthening my self contol muscles!  I plan to buy only enough for the usual number of kids, at the last minute.  And maybe I'll have to settle for different treats than I usally get to cut down on cost.  Too bad a person can't give out homemade treats anymore, I make a mean chocolate/orange Halloween swirl cookie!

I'd love to hear from you if you wanna join me in this edition of beatng the budget buster!

Anyone have a bat costume to lend?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What do you value?

Recently, I was at a meeting of women interested in participating in mentorship.  Some ladies wanted to mentor, and some wanted to be mentored.  When asked to say why we where there, I discussed my long time reaction to Titus 2:4 " Older women should train the younger women ...".  Every time I read this verse, I say out loud to the pages of my Bible "oh YEAH? well where are these older women?!?"  In our mobile culture, many women are no longer surrounded by mothers, grand-mothers, aunts and other women of influence who can guide, lead, and encourage them to a right way of living.  Some of us long for someone who has the life experience to come along side us and say "I'm with you", and maybe impart a few words of wisdom that they have learned along the way. 

What surprised me was the reaction to my desire to be paired with an "older woman" for mentorship.  I ammended my words to include, more mature, and wise.  Still the reaction was the same: No one wanted to be an older woman.  In our culture, we praise youth and beauty, but those are fleeting.  These women did not want to be called "old". 

The Bible has alot to say about which we should value more, youth or wisdom.  The entire book of proverbs is dedicated to wisdom!  "Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her." Proverbs 3:15  "Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her, happy are those who hold her tightly" Proverbs 3:18.  Hmm, the tree of life? More precious than rubies?  Proverbs implores those of us who are "younger" spiritually or chronologically to seek wisdom whole heartedly.  Those of us who have gained wisdom are told to take care to pass it on... so why doesn't anyone want to be wise?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nifty Thrifty Gifty: Photobooks

First, SPOILER ALERT!  If you are my parent or grandparent, you may not want to read this!!! That means you Nannie :)

My favourite, easiest thrifty gift idea is photobooks.  I made these last year for all the parents and grandparents in our lives (13 in all, seriously!).  I originally saw the idea on tv, to take pictures of kids artwork and have it put into a photobook.  Kids artwork is cute, but with lots of glued on sparkles and macaronis it's often hard to mail and gets wrecked over time.  This way, grand parents can enjoy the kids creations, and they immortalized forever.  I included lots of pictures of the kids too, holding the pictures up, or shots of them working on it.  I called it "works of HEART"

Every single recipient LOVED it.  I had them made in a 6X8 soft cover size, so they fit inside a purse.  It was a great idea for many other reasons.  Yes, I had to spend a bit of time choosing layouts, uploading pictures and putting the book together.  But I only had to do it once!  I had copies of the same book printed and sent to my house.  I wrote a dedication to each grand parent inside the cover, and put them all in envelopes.  Another bonus was that they could be mailed for the cost of just one stamp, instead of the cost of a parcel.  And, at a cost of under $10 each!  What else can I give all the loved ones in my life for $10 that would be meaningful and appreciated?

My theme this year is four seasons of fun, and I am including pictures of all the fun and neat things the kids do throughout the year...gardening, sledding, horse riding, raking leaves, etc etc.

There are lots of photo websites that are great,  Last year I used Black's, but I found their creation program a bit clunky.  Their print quality was awesome, though.  This year I am using Shutterfly.  I'm sure you can look around and choose one you like.

Another bonus free idea:  When you sign up for Shutterfly, you get 50 free 4X6 prints.  I plan to take a family pic and have them sent with the photobooks near Christmas, I'll write a quick message on the back, and VOILA! Christmas cards!  I also got a coupon for a FREE 8X8 hard cover photobook for signing up!  I used it to make an album for my husband made up entirely of pictures of him with the kids hunting and fishing.  That's what he's getting for Christmas this year...FREE!!  For those of you here in town, I also got some coupons for 10% off anything you order, and if you want one, let me know.

A friend of mine fills up a photo album for her grandmother every Christmas with new pictures of her kids.  Everyone loves photos of their grandkids!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Shopping" Differently

This mind set change is definetly altering how I "shop".  I think we as a family have become a bit lazy in our problem solving lately.  "We want something" has automatically become  a direct route through"We buy something" to end up at " We have something".  Not being able to spend money has made me look for new ways to cut out " We buy something".

Recently, our youngest daughter poured water into the charger base of our portable phone, frying the whole unit beyond repair.  True to our new guiding principle, knowing I couldn't eat a phone meant I couldn't spend money on one.  We lived for a couple months with only the kitchen phone, which has a two foot cord.  I have to stand at my kitchen desk to use this phone.  It definetly cut down on the long chat session type calls!  But during this time, I was helping to recruit volunteers for our church's children's ministry programs.  I had to phone dozens of people, and try to get my kids to not need my attention during the calls, since I was chained to the wall.  I grew very tired of this pretty quickly!  But still I was determined to persevere! 

During a chat with a girlfriend one day, she reminded me of Air Miles.  Our family collects Air Miles, and in the past, we did manage to use them to take several trips.  But now that we are a family of five, and trips use alot more miles, this family isn't going anywhere anytime soon!  I checked into the many things you can "buy" with Air Miles.....tons!! ( You should check it out!!!).  We ordered a portable phone set with two phones, and a carpet cleaner!  Now I will no longer have to pay to clean my living room carpet!! ( Believe me, it needed it!)

If we just use our creativity, there are so many more routes out there than " We buy something"!  What about trading? Or borrowing?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Love Hand-Me-Downs!

As a kid, I always loved when a friend of my mom's would bring me a whole black garbage bag of her daughter's outgrown clothes.  It was like a treasure chest, all full of neat clothes, all for me!  And you know what? I haven't outgrown that little thrill.  Partly, I suppose because often I'm being given clothes I might not otherwise afford, and also because the giver's thoughfullness delights me.

I love getting hand me downs for my kids too.  I think passing around hand me downs for kids is a bit more common, but I wonder if we can re-ignite it among us adults too?  I notice that offers of hand me down clothes are often pre-faced with " I hope you aren't offended, but I thought of you...".  Probably because some people might be offended.  But why? 

I know some of my friends often pass around clothes to each other, and I think it would be fun if we could get more people in on this.  Chatting with a mom at the playground the other day, I heard about how her and her friends have a "Merge and Purge" party.  Everyone gets together for a girls' night out, and brings clothes they no longer need/want/use/fit into.  Then, each gal gets to go through what everyone else brought.  Whatever no one needs at the end of the night is "purged" to Value Village or the womens shelter, or whatever charity was decided upon.

Who wants to "Merge and Purge" with me??

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