A couple weeks ago, I shared how I budget in 6 easy steps and this week I thought I would check in with you on how our budgeting is going.
I left off sharing our tracking for the month of January and, to that point, we had spent $333.12, and we were averaging $83.28 a week – which was less than my goal of $100/week. Score!
So, how did things go in February? Let’s take a look -
February added $429.14 to our annual grocery spending total. Not terrible – only $29.14 over budget for monthly spending in February.
I have a few thoughts about how our money was spent on groceries in February and I’m just going to break them down bullet point style -
All in all, February was pretty good for meal planning. I seriously slacked in the first part of the month. I don’t even remember doing any meal planning at all. But when I hit that epiphany about eating out on the weekends, I kicked my butt into gear and started focusing on planning out all of our meals for the week ahead.
I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration – and good meals – from The Fresh 20: 20-Ingredient Meal Plans for Health and Happiness 5 Nights a Week** and Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh, and Easy Recipes**, both of which I originally purchased back in September (!!).
The Fresh 20 is my favorite of the two. It’s broken down seasonally with four weeks of meals (dinner only, 5 nights) that use only 20 ingredients. And of those 20 ingredients, whatever produce is needed is seasonally appropriate.
What I love best about this cookbook is that the recipes sound gourmet (Maple Glazed Salmon with Bok Choy anyone??) but are very easy and fast to prepare. We’ve not had one recipe – yet – that we didn’t like. And, in the event a recipe calls for something we don’t eat, it’s very easy to sub something else in. For example, I don’t particularly like pork sausage (and I’m German for crying out loud) and last week there was a pork ‘n beans recipe that called for it. I subbed in turkey sausage and it was just as delicious.
The downside? The Fresh 20 isn’t exactly toddler friendly.
I vowed to never be a short order cook and, for the most part, I’ve kept up with that. But some nights, I know Ezra won’t even taste what I’m making and that’s where the Weelicious cookbook comes in. You may be familiar with the author’s website by the same name – she has a ton of great recipes, for free, over there. I love the cookbook, though, because it’s broken down by type of food and so far every recipe has been a winner in Ezra’s book. I usually will pick something out of there if what I’m making from The Fresh 20 seems too adventurous for Ezra’s tastes (regardless, I do always put a little on his plate on those evenings just to see if he would like it after all).
I also use the Weelicious cookbook for snacks. I used to be in the habit of making one or two healthy snacks on Sundays to last us through the upcoming week. I fell out of that when the house stuff started going down back in October, but the last couple weeks I’ve picked it up again. I am still searching for good savory snack recipes, though, so if you know of any please send them my way. Until then, we just do the standard veggies + dip, chips + salsa, etc.
I’m pretty hopeful about March. Just for the sake of adding another list into this post, here are my goals for March’s groceries and meal planning -
That’s it. Pretty simple, huh?
How did you do in February with your grocery and meal planning goals? Please share!
** Amazon.com links in this post are affiliate links. Any money earned from those links goes to support this blog. Thank you!
It’s part 4 of my series on cloth diapers – zing! I’m on a roll. (Check the bottom of this post for links to Parts 1, 2 and 3.)
It’s no secret that I love cloth diapers. But I was hesitant at first – what if I regretted my choice? What if I didn’t use them? What if I couldn’t wash them properly and they ended up all stained and stinky? What if.
I jumped in despite my reservations and I’m so glad that I did because, for me, using cloth diapers is something I feel really strongly about – some people are really into the organic food thing, others only buy wooden toys, but me? My thing is cloth diapers.
However. Not everyone is like me (what????). Some people just really don’t like the thought of using cloth and, you know what? That’s totally okay. I wrote this article to help moms out who may have guilt over not cloth diapering. I think there are always things that each mom feels guilty over – something she wishes she did differently, or would have started to begin with – I know I have those things. But cloth diapers shouldn’t be something to feel guilt over – it’s a personal choice.
Anyway, here are 4 reasons cloth diapering may not be a fit for your family -
When you don’t have control over your living space and, especially, your laundry space – cloth diapering may create more problems than its worth. And while you would likely save money doing cloth, you might not see as great a savings if your laundry area is coin operated. Let’s break it down – WARNING, math ahead -
** Please note – these numbers are just ones I made up for illustrative purposes. If you want to find out how it breaks down for you personally, sub in your own numbers – your cost for laundry, the number of diapers your child uses on a monthly or annual basis, etc.**
I’m not sure what the cost of a load would be to wash and dry, but let’s just assume it’s $1.50 (so $3.00/load). Let’s say you wash your diapers every other day, or 3 times/week. That adds $9.00 to your weekly laundry cost. Let’s also assume you do about 3 loads of regular laundry a week – which means your base laundry cost/week is $9.00. So, adding in cloth means you’ve doubled your weekly laundry bill and are now looking at spending $18.00/week total.
I don’t know how long this fictional person is planning on staying at this apartment, but most leases are for a year. So, in one year’s time, you’ve tacked $468 on to your annual laundry bill, making your bill $936. This, of course, doesn’t factor in the cost of soap, softener, etc.
Now, let’s look at how much it costs to stay in disposables to get a clear picture. If we assume 5 diapers per day, over the course of one week’s time your child has used 35 diapers. Over the course of one month’s time, your child has used 150 diapers. I couldn’t find a box of 150 disposable diapers, but I did find a box of Luvs that had 140 diapers – Luvs With Ultra Leakguards Size 5 Diapers 140 Count **, for $32.99. Each diaper is $.24 (rounding up) and this box would last you almost one month. But for illustrative purposes, and because some days your kid maybe only uses 4 diapers instead of 5, we’ll say you go through one of these boxes a month. That makes your annual diaper cost – $395.88. This doesn’t factor in shipping, and it also doesn’t factor in the subscribe and save option through Amazon.com which makes this box of diapers $26.39 and your annual cost goes down to $316.68.
Well, looks like by going with disposables and cutting down on your laundry, you’ve saved yourself $72.12 (and $151.32 with subscribe and save). Nothing to sneeze at! Good for you, money saving mom!
Some people just don’t have strong stomachs, whether it’s their kids goo or not. Me? I can handle poop and vomit coming out of my child (but only my child… can’t handle it on other adults or children). So, the bodily function aspect of cloth diapering has no effect on me. In fact, spraying a diaper is like a challenge – just how clean can I get that thing before I toss it in the wash?? Cloth Diapering Olympics anyone?!?! I digress.
Some people are really sensitive toward things like that, though. The sight may bother them, or the smell, or both. The thought of spraying diapers may make their palms sweaty, just thinking about the possibility of poop touching their hand. And that’s totally okay. Don’t sacrifice your sanity for cloth. It isn’t worth it, no matter how cute the prints are.
While cloth diapering doesn’t add that much to your life, if you’re already over extended and the thought of adding on one more chore makes you hyperventilate – just say no. If you cloth diaper, you should expect to do at least two extra loads of laundry a week, and then fold and put that laundry away. There are also the occasional instances where you may need to troubleshoot your laundry – you’re dealing with an ammonia smell, you think you have hard water build up, etc.
Sometimes, it’s just easier to go with disposables – they’re straightforward and easy to operate, and you toss them when they’re done. I get it – I really do! And there’s no shame in taking the easy way out
This definitely happens sometimes. And, quite frankly, I don’t blame daycares/babysitters for not wanting to jump down the cloth diaper rabbit hole with you. They could have upwards of 7 or 8 children under their watch at any given moment, and they don’t need one more thing to add to their list of things to tackle. Not to mention, snap diapers can look really intimidating.
You could work around this “issue” by cloth diapering on the weekends, and that would be great. You’d have about 10-12 diapers at the end of the weekend to wash, and that’s just about enough for a load. But, that’s up to you – you have to decide if it’s worth it. And if you decide it isn’t? Not the end of the world.
(I can also see this from the cloth diapering parents’ perspective – it’s our child, we want cloth, just do it! It’s a fine line. However, I think because you are choosing to place your child in the care of this place, it’s best to go by their rules.)
And there you have it – my 4 reasons cloth diapering may not be the best choice for you and your family. I’m sure there are other reasons out there, but four seems like a good place to stop. If you don’t cloth diaper, tell me why in the comments! I promise I won’t try to convert you
** Amazon.com links are affiliate links, of which any money earned goes directly toward supporting this blog. Thank you!
OMG can it be? Part 3 of my series on cloth diapers is here!
I thought it would be fun to switch it up from my typical wall of text and do a video. Now you can see me in all my awkward glory + the major bonus of watching my pets in the background (spoiler alert – there is a brief view of a cat tormenting a dog).
A few notes, now that you’ve watched the video:
Here are the brands I mentioned in the video -
Swaddlebees Simplex OS (one-size)
Tots Bots Easy-Fit
bumGenius Freetime (no longer own any of these, but they are easy to use AIOs)
bumGenius Elemental (I briefly had a couple of these. They are nice because the interior fabric is organic cotton)
Twinkie Tush OS
Thanks for watching!
It was in November 2012 when I first “met” Dave Ramsey.
Usually, I save my annual money crisis for Januarys. Nothing says “AH! WE HAVEN’T BEEN BUDGETING FOR THE LAST 12 MONTHS!!!” quite like a new year.
But for some reason in 2012, I decided to switch it up and start my freak out a little early. I think it was because, back then, I had a lot of free time to read. That was when Ezra would sleep on me for hours and it was glorious. It was also when I regularly used my Nook and I was on this e-book kick. One of the books my library had for download was Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness” ** and I thought, hey why not read this?
Prior to that, I vaguely knew of Dave and his plan but neither I nor Alex was really at a place in our lives where we were ready to be honest with ourselves and buckle down and budget. I think we were under the misconception that a “budget” meant you had made some horrible mistake with your money and you had to suffer endlessly to make up for it.
What I learned from reading The Total Money Makeover was that a budget doesn’t mean you’re bad at managing money. A budget means you’re smart because you’ve decided to take back control over your money instead of letting it control you. And I can 100% admit that for the first 5 years of our marriage money definitely controlled us instead of the other way around.
Anyway, I finished the book in record time (I think two days?) and was super eager to get on board. I listed our debts from smallest to largest and started preaching the gospel of Dave to Alex. It took a little while, but Alex jumped on board with me and in no time we found ourselves debt free, selling our house and building a new one. Kind of a dream, huh? I still pinch myself.
Our story is a little unique in that we didn’t have to roll with the debt snowball for a long time. Why? We were one of those people who had a large reserve of savings just sitting around, but we were afraid to use it to pay off our debt because we thought “What if we need this money????” It was a huge challenge to change that line of thinking – what is the point of having savings if you continue to pay out loads of interest in debt… especially if you could knock most if not all of that debt out of the way, and then use what’s left + your income for something you actually want to spend it on instead of paying for mistakes/purchases of the past. That’s why we were technically able to pay off all consumer and student loan debt in what appeared to be record time. And even though our story isn’t the same as others’ who chip away at their debt over many long months, it’s still our story and it still is a valuable one because we changed our mindset toward money and finally understood the value of a good budget.
Which brings me to my point – how do I budget our money each month? Well, I’m glad you asked.
It really isn’t that involved of a process. Here it is, broken down in a few steps -
Where did the money go last month? If you’re just jumping into budgeting, this will be a little time consuming but once you’ve done it and if you commit to keeping up with it, it will be really easy in the future.
The best way to do this is to find a program to do it for you. I used to download all transactions from our bank’s website into an excel spreadsheet and figure it out that way but it took FOREVER and I didn’t keep up with it because I hated it.
Now, I use YNAB – “You Need a Budget” – and it itemizes everything for me. I just have to categorize transactions, but once I’ve done it a few times, YNAB remembers how I categorize things and does it for me. If you use this program, you’ll need to sync periodically or manually enter transactions in. The reason I like this is there is an app for iPhones and whatever I sync on my laptop automatically updates on my phone and Alex’s phone, too. So now there are no excuses to not know how much money we’ve got and where it’s going.
Your bank’s website may offer a similar service, or there are other programs out there like Mint.com.
The point is – pick something that works for you and you know you’ll keep up with. You can’t budget if you don’t know where you’re spending your money. If you’re just jumping in, I recommend going back 2 or 3 months and downloading your transactions to get a clear picture on where your money goes.
Since you’ve checked out your transaction history, you’ll see the deposits into your account(s) that are income. Make notes of those. If your income varies month to month, go off an average of 3-6 months income. Total up your income and write that number down – this is what you’ve got to work with for the month, so it’s the most important number on your budget.
Try to keep this is as realistic and honest as you possibly can – don’t hold back any income. I’m going to have you create a zero dollar budget so that means every.single.dollar of income is accounted for and told where to go. No monies left behind!!!!
Even the most piddly of expenses, like getting your dog’s nails trimmed. Write it down. Check out your transactions to see what those expenses are. Start with the easy ones that never change month-to-month such as your rent or mortgage, electric bill (if you’re on an even billing program – which I HIGHLY recommend doing if you’ve got the option in your area), etc. and for expenses that fluctuate month-to-month, average based on what you’ve spent in the past or just whip out an estimate.
I use a May Book (pictured above) that’s been customized as a budget tracker to do this. I like this book because I can fit it in my bag and tote it around with me so my budget is always there, taunting I mean reminding me of how I should spend my money. Plus, it’s an adorable book so it makes the task of budgeting not so annoying.
Some of my expense categories include:
You may have other categories like credit card or student loan payments, basket weaving, world travel – whatever is a part of your life and you find yourself spending a lot on gets a category.
Now comes the fun part -
Chances are, once you’ve written down all of your expenses and assigned dollar amounts to them, you will find yourself over-budgeted, meaning your income does not match up to the total of your expenses.
But go ahead and total those expenses up just to see.
In the event you’re over-budgeted, you have two options -
If you don’t think increasing your income is a viable option, then you need to revisit your expenses and see where you’re going nuts. There are four main categories you should protect first because they directly effect your well being. Those are – housing, food (groceries only. You won’t die if you aren’t eating out.), utilities (and cable and internet don’t count as utilities) and clothing (obviously I’m not talking about the latest dress at Shop Bob. This is meant to cover your basic needs. You can’t walk around pantsless, unfortunately.).
For me, my out of control expense categories were always eating out and shopping. It may be totally different on your end. Regardless, whatever that amount is that you’re over budget is what you’ll need to cut out of your budget. So, if you find yourself spending $200 more than what you bring in each month, check out your categories to see where you can cut back.
If you truly are not spending gratuitously and you’re just flat out short each month, you may need to look into money saving options like moving so you can lower your cost of living, couponing to save on grocery costs, budget billing plans through your utility company or asking for a raise at work.
Once you’ve filled all the holes and your budget seems realistic and every dollar is accounted for…. follow through with your plan.
You just spent all this time creating a budget and it would be a terrible waste for it to languish, right?? I recommend printing off your budget and putting it somewhere you’ll see it every day – maybe the fridge? Or inside your closet door? Or, grab one of the May Books I mentioned so you can carry your budget around with you. What’s kind of fun with the May Book for budgeting is there is a section to list what exactly you’re budgeting for. So, if there is some specific goal you have in mind, you can track your progress on that goal each month.
With your budget in mind, your spending will be controlled and you can live your life without worrying whether or not you’ll have money to pay this bill or that bill.
And best of all? Because you’ve done the hard work already, creating a new budget each month will be a piece of cake. I highly recommend not recycling the previous month’s budget, but definitely start out using it as a template. Assess what you’ve got going on in the upcoming month, and then map out how your income will be spent. Our lives aren’t static; in March you may not spend a lot, but in April you may want to start saving for wedding gifts you might need to buy over the summer for all those weddings you know you’ll get invited to. Or, in October you may want to start setting aside money for Christmas shopping in November. See where I’m going with this? Just thinking a few weeks out in advance erases most “emergencies” – be realistic about the patterns of life and plan accordingly.
I try to setup the budget for the upcoming month some time in the last week of the current month. So, around the 26th or 27th I’ll start figuring out March’s budget so that when the 1st of March arrives, I’m ready to go.
And that is my system! Is your system different? Tell me about it!
**Disclaimer: Any Amazon.com links found in this post are affiliate links. Proceeds earned from these links are used to help support this blog, so thanks for your support
I know, I promised fiction today. Instead, you’re getting some non-fiction in the form of my 2014 goals.
Please try to hold back your disappointment and, instead, look for some fiction next Sunday. And while you wait… you can check out my goals for the next 10 months.
This is part of my Making Things Happen in 2014 series. Where did all of this come from? Well, visit the links below to see how I got started on this productivity bender -
This is probably an obvious one.
What do I mean by “grow”? Well, that answer changes when looking at the shop versus the blog.
For the blog, I hope to grow my content. I want to write more and share more. I’ve put together an editorial calendar template to keep myself accountable and I’ll do my best to share something every day. That’s a huge goal, but hey aren’t goals meant to inspire?
A few of the content areas I’m hoping to talk more about are -
All of these very broad topics will figure into what I write about each week. The main goal behind all of this is to not only stretch myself personally, but to also meet people and grow a community. One of my favorite things about blogs is how they connect people together – you read a blog because you like what the person has to say and you want to hear more, and you comment because you want to share how you fit in with what they’re writing about. I love that! And I want to see more of that here – either through commenting directly on posts, interacting on the facebook page, sending emails – whatever!
Shop growth is something I want to address in a separate post next week, but the readers digest version is I plan on focusing more on ready to ship versus what I’ve been doing previously, which is a focus on made to order. I’ll still have the option to customize things to your liking, but I will have a lot more available to purchase immediately and shipped right away. I’m also going to release my patterns to be available for purchase, and some will be free (those will be here on the blog). And, on top of those great things, I plan on combining inventory into different sets to purchase as gifts. You’ll just have to wait until next week to learn more about the sets, though!
This is sort of a broad statement, but it encompasses a lot of different things so I had to make it a little broad. This is a goal that’s meant to stretch me personally – as a wife, as a mom, as a friend, etc.
I tend to be a homebody and reserved. I am totally content to hang out by myself. I’m not unfriendly, though – in fact, I love interacting and meeting new people. BUT I really, really treasure time to myself.
Sometimes I get stuck. And I end up saying “no” a lot, even though I know I should probably say yes. So the purpose of this goal is to be more aware and purposeful about saying yes. Not only that, it’s about initiating things instead of waiting to be asked.
It’s not about being guilted into doing things, though. Because that was something I struggled with a lot in 2013 – feeling obligated to say yes and putting personal things aside in order to please someone else. That got me seriously off track and was difficult to get out of and I’m never going back there again.
Anyway, in my marriage, this means talking more and sharing more about myself. I have no idea why, but I would be more comfortable telling a total stranger about my goals than my own husband. That’s really embarrassing to admit, let alone write on a public blog, but it’s the truth. And the stupid part? Alex is a great encourager. He’s a really positive person and would never make me feel stupid or tell me that what I was trying to accomplish was a waste. And yet – those are always my fears and a voice in my head says, “he doesn’t care what you’re doing. Just keep it quiet.” And I have for years. But not anymore. Hi Alex
As a mom, this means planning more fun activities and actually doing some of the stuff sitting around on my pinterest or trying ideas I’ve been thinking about for awhile. I want to plan a weekly activity or fun craft to do with my kid because he isn’t going to be a kid forever and it’s only a matter of time until he’s too cool to glue popsicle sticks down to construction paper with me.
And as a friend, daughter, sister, etc. it just means reaching out more. Having girl’s nights. Picking up the phone to send a nice message or even – gasp! – call to say hi. Write a little note of encouragement. Just bring more of my heart out instead of having all of these intentions that stay inside and never are acted out.
I want deeper connections. It’s time to get out of my head and out into life.
I’m the family meal planner and the one who buys the groceries for the most part, so that means I’m the one in charge of my family’s health. It’s a huge goal of mine this year to clean up what we eat and focus on simple recipes that are built around what’s in season. I’m going to be doing more meal planning and centering those meals around what we can grow, what we can source locally and what is good for our bodies.
It’s no secret that I love a good coffee drink and I may or may not be a little obsessed with McDonalds so this goal is going to be HARD. I’m just going to say it right now – I’ll probably fail left and right but I’m going to do my best. I’m also going to say right now that I don’t plan on giving up fancy coffee, but I will be indulging way less.
Not only is this goal about food, it’s also about exercise. I have zero cardiac endurance. I don’t know where this goal is going to take me in terms of exercise, but I at least would like to go from nothing to maybe 30 minutes of some form of exercise a couple days a week. Sometimes you gotta start small. I won’t be joining a gym; I’ll be using exercise DVDs I’ve bought or received as gifts because it’s ridiculous that they’re sitting there unused. And I purposefully did not pack them up because I had a feeling this would be a 2014 goal.
This goal also encompasses some little things like becoming more of a morning person, keeping up with regular doctor/dental appointments for both myself and Alex, drinking more water and learning about vitamins.
Last year, it was difficult for me – in the midst of finding my feet as a new mom – to set time aside for bible study. I definitely prayed more than I ever have, but I didn’t spend time reading or working on memorization. I would say 2013 was mostly about surviving and clinging by faith, than digging into the word. And that’s totally okay. Christian life cycles in and out and definitely moves in season, and last year was a season where I just needed to pray.
Now I’m in a season where I want to grow in my understanding of the bible. And I also want to work on memorization. Part of it is that I do have larger chunks of time where I can spend on this, but also part of it is the fact that Ezra is a little older and can work on memorizing short, simple verses with me. So, this goal is about purposefully carving out dedicated time for study and coming up with easy to remember verses to work on for myself and – eventually – with Ezra.
I talked a little bit about legacy in a past entry, but from the perspective of creating family traditions. I briefly touched on how legacy fits into the financial side of life – and that’s what this goal is about.
Because we are debt free, we’re in a position where we can be a little more generous with our money. We’ve added an “Acts of kindness” section to our budget for this specific purpose. I’m not exactly sure what will happen with it every month, but I do know that it will be fun coming up with ways to use that money. In the month of February, it’s meant sending little encouraging cards to friends I don’t get to see as often, as well as catching up on “thank you” cards that I am so late in sending that it’s borderline embarrassing.
But focusing on legacy also means staying on track with the “baby steps” that are a part of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. We are technically on steps 4 and 5 (saving for retirement and college funds) but when we close on our house in a month or two, we’ll be back on step 3 (building up a large emergency fund of 3-6 months’ expenses) because I have a feeling we’ll have to dip into our emergency fund to cover – well – unexpected expenses.
Staying on track with these steps – making sure we’ve got a safety cushion, that we’re saving for retirement, that Ezra’s college fund is being taken care of, that our mortgage will be paid off sooner rather than later – enables us to create a legacy for our family. And what will that legacy look like? Freedom to do things without worrying about whether we’ve got the money or not, an inheritance for Ezra and any future children and, most importantly, an example that Ezra will carry on to his family and will hopefully repeat for his children. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!
Alright, there you have it – my 2014 goals. Have you gotten your goals all lined up for the rest of the year?