Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Frugal Missus Lives Off The Land

I was doing some blurfing (blog surfing. Did I make that word up?) today and came across a "Live Off the Land" Challenge on Money Saving Mom's Blog. Basically, I am going to use up the odds and ends in my pantry and freezers. I mean, I spend all this money on food each month, but it feels like I'm bursting with odds and ends of grub-type things. So, Money Saving Mom, I accept your challenge.

My Goals:

1) Spend no more than $30/week from Jan. 10 - Feb. 10 at the grocery store. (Our budgeting goes by our pay periods, not the traditional months)

2) Only buy dairy (milk, specifically) and produce.

3) Blog about what I've spent at the store. (You folks have to keep my honest!)

4) All "extra" money (hopefully $280!!) will be sent to the SnowBall on Feb. 10.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Frugal Family Meets Mr. Murphy

Well folks, after settling in as a Frugal Family of Four, I am happy to say we are still very much on budget and on track with our debt payoff! We've paid off a couple thousand to a credit card with our "leftover" money these past four months that we thought we'd only ever be able to send minimum payments! I've said it before and I'll say it again...


Every dime should have a name! I can't tell you how much MORE money we have just by changing how we spend it. If you have any desire to get on track with a written budget (you can't write it in your head, guys. It has to be on paper. No cheating), post a message here and I'll do my best to do "lessons" in how to go about it.

Now, you might ask, what's with the title of this post?

Well, The Frugal Family has met that little devil, Murphy, and his stupid law...

If Something Bad Will Happen, It WILL.

Furthermore, I happen to think it'll happen at the worst possible moment. Indeed, Murphy landed in our house TWO DAYS before Christmas. Our 2005 Acura had a plethora of malfunctions in recent weeks and we finally took it in to a highly recommended mechanic (if you live locally, I'd be happy to pass on his info. Just ask).

4 New Tires
New Battery
+ Balancing and mounting of tires


Two days before Christmas.

But, Frugal Mister and I did not bat a lash, for we had a Baby Emergency Fund of $1000 to fall back on! We wrote a check for $692.80. Done. The best part is that our car repair isn't going to cost us $692.80 + 13% interest. It's not going to take us 5 years to pay off. It's not going to haunt us. It's D-O-N-E.

As for it being 2 days before Christmas? Big Deal! We've bought ALL of our gifts with cash this year so even an almost $700 car repair bill can't break our Christmas Spirit!

Now, what happens to our Debt Snowball now that our Baby Fund of $1000 is no longer funded? We will take a short hiatus from throwing all of our "extra" money at the snowball until our Emergency Fund is full again. We don't anticipate it taking long, but you can be damn sure it's high on the priority list for us, just in case Murphy decides to test us again.

As of now, we've paid off a total of $2004.37 in debt on just one of our credit cards AND had 3 visits from Murphy (Our Washing Machine broke, the toilets and showers all got backed up so we had to have an emergency plumber come to the house, and the car repair). I can't even BEGIN to tell you how proud I am to say we have not used credit cards AT ALL for any of it.

Take THAT, Murphy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Frugal Family, Slaves No More!

We're BACK! Thanks for being patient as we adjust to our family of four status! Just because we have another mouth to feed doesn't mean we aren't sticking by our frugal ways! I will be posting ways to stay frugal with a new kid in the house! In fact, I can proudly say I have not spent one thin dime on our Frugal Fourth.

Not one penny.

No Joke.

I know it's a teaser, but I'll go into that in a different post. This post isn't about our new addition... it's about what we've gotten rid of!

We took a trip to Seattle to visit Frugal Father's Family and vowed that, should we be able to make the trip up there and not put anything on a credit card, that we would cut the cards up! Well, folks... Checky check it:
Dave would be so proud!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Frugal Family Finds a Fourth!

Wondering where we've been and where Menu Monday is?? We've been busing welcoming our Frugal Fourth in to the fold! You can be sure I'll have many posts about raising a child with frugal tactics, but for now, we're just enjoying each other's company. We haven't forgotten about you or our Frugal Journey!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Frugal Missus Is Soooo NOT Extreme!

I was doing my regularly scheduled Frugal Blog Searching (ok, so it's not scheduled, per se, but I definitely do it on a regular basis to find new ideas!), and came across some Extreme Frugal Practices. I can't help but wonder, as the author ponders as well, when is it "frugal" and when is it just plain CHEAP?!?

You be the judge!

Writing on post it notes in pencil, so you can reuse them.

Rinsing and reusing paper towels.

Fighting over the pinata candy at a child's birthday party so you can save it and give it out for Halloween treats.

Giving up your home to live in an RV, truck or car full time.

Cut up cereal boxes and use them for post cards.

Pouring pasta water down the toilet or in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water used in a flush.

Bring your own cheese when eating hamburgers out so you won't be charged for a cheeseburger.

Go out to eat with friends and ask for their leftovers instead of ordering a meal for yourself. Using an old bra to grow tomatoes in the cups.

Spending hours to separate your two-ply toilet paper into two separate rolls when people will probably just grab more paper to start with.

Shutting off the water when people visit do they will be forced to use the bathroom multiple times and not waste a flush (Yes, I know of someone who did this).

Set up a cot in your office to save on housing.

Empty saved ketchup packets from fast food joints into a ketchup bottle.

Going through random garbage bags for the soda caps to collect for their rewards programs.

(For the record, I have never done any of the above mentioned things, nor have they ever even crossed my mind, and I KNOW I boarderline on "cheap" at times.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Frugal Missus Forgets Her Cash

We've started using the Envelope System to keep our spending in check. It's working for us, so far, I think! I have done all my grocery spending for the first 2 weeks and still have $19 left over! Yay me! My gas money was gone much faster than either Frugal Mister or myself had anticipated so we'll be doing some tweeking on that since Frugal Mister has almost half of his money left!

I've also found those small little envelopes I had been using were difficult to manage and left me feeling very scatter-brained, especially when I was trying to keep track of how much I was spending and what coupons I was trying to use. I stopped by My Happy Place and picked up a 13 pocket check-filing plastic envelope thing at the Dollar Spot. I have my sections labeled as I would my different envelopes, a small notebook in the front to keep track of what/when I spend, and extra pockets for receipts that need to be entered into my pricebook or coupons that need to be filed.

One benefit (among many) of using the envelope system is that if you forget your envelope, you can't spend. Period. I went out for a walk with a friend of mine today and headed home around lunch time. I knew I had leftovers in the fridge but a quickie burger sounded soooo good! (Hey, cut a Frugal Gal some slack! I'm almost 39 weeks pregnant!) However, having only anticipated a walk, I left my envelopes back at home. Sure, it's only a couple of dollars, but I didn't spend it. Now I have a couple dollars to spend elsewhere, save, or put towards the debt snowball at the end of the month.

For those of you wondering, Frugal Mister and I will sit down at the end of the month with the "extra" money in our envelopes and the money we've gotten from selling stuff on Craigslist and our garage sale we had a couple weeks ago, and shoot that off to our debt snowball. Just because we HAVE the money in the envelopes doesn't mean we have to spend it!

Monday, August 17, 2009

For Laughs

Menu Monday

Monday: BBQ Chicken Skewers, Potato Salad, and Corn
Tuesday: Spinach and Cheese Manicotti and Green Salad
Wednesday: Turkey Tacos
Thursday: Leftovers (Frugal Mister is working OT)
Friday: Rootbeer Pulled Pork Sandwiches (A new recipe! We'll see how it goes!), French Fries and Green Salad
Saturday: Corned Beef and Cabbage (One of Frugal Mister's favorites. It's not a cheap meal, but he deserves the Thank You after working 55-65 hours of OT the past 2 months).
Sunday: Fish Tacos

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Frugal Missus Finds a Deal!

I've known about for quite some time, but for whatever reason, didn't really take it seriously. I often found jaded customers skewing the reviews with a negative one, or overly complimentary reviews, which of course, could only have been posted by the owners themselves (who's jaded now??). Well, I'm changing my tune!

I've been searching for a great, local, CHEAP haircut place for myself f-o-r-e-v-e-r! I go through spurts of growing my hair out (read: not cutting it for far too long and having it be nasty and dried out by the time I just get fed up and chop it to my chin) because most decent hairstylists I've found charge $45-$60! I found a great one, but it was over an hour away from my house! BLECH! Who wants to drive that far for a haircut? Not me! With gas, a bridge toll, a lunch out, cost of the cut, and tip, we were looking at about $75. Yikes.


I decided to look up a salon in my area with the price range set at "$". I found a salon about 4 miles from my house that had gotten 4.5 stars from 4 different reviewers! While normally, I'd walk by this place and think "chop shop" (aka stylists fresh out of beauty school with little extra training no matter how many Vidal Sassoon and Paul Mitchell posters they put on the wall of the salon), I thought the reviews had to be somewhat legit. Besides, I just wanted a trim AND it's only hair; it'll grow back! Upon further research (a visit to the salon's website), I found that haircuts started at $11!

Furthermore, I've been doing the "no poo method" on my hair since May (don't judge till you've tried it. My curls have never looked better! And no... I don't stink) and haven't gotten a cut since I started going "no poo" (man, I hate that term), and knew I didn't want some stylist scrubbing at my head, undoing months of adjustment to the method! So, this morning, I took a shower, threw my hair back in a ponytail, and went to the salon with a wet head. It was perfect for me! And I didn't get any weird looks from the stylist. Bonus!

It was also very comforting to hear both stylists greet everyone (except me since I was a newcomer) by name. Repeat customers. Always a good sign! After the cut, my stylist said "See you after the baby!!" Already knowing I'd be back, I told her I would indeed!

While it's fun to walk out of a salon all done up, in reality, most people don't have a prayer of styling their hair to look like it does when they leave the salon. By not having the washing or the styling as a part of the price, my haircut came to a WHOPPING $13!

WHAT?!?! You mean I can get my hair cut on a regular basis instead of every 6 months?? You mean I don't have to feel guilty about not getting The Princesses hair cut because I need to pay $50 for MY trim (Trim = less than 1")?? What a new fangled concept!

In any case, is my new friend for finding great deals with great vendors. I highly suggest you take a chance on a couple of searches! Just make sure you do two things: 1) come back here to tell me about the awesome luck you had, and 2) write your own Yelp review about the place. Pay it forward...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Frugal Missus Makes Cents

I did a big ol' shopping trip at Costco this week, in preparation for our Frugal Fourth, and finally decided to make a Price Book of my purchases to help me figure out where the best prices were for the things I buy on a regular basis.

What's a Price Book you ask? Well, it's a list of grocery items and the best price you've paid for them! With this record, you can tell where your commonly purchased items are typically the best priced as well as if stores are buffering their sale prices (marking them higher so you think you are getting a better deal than you are when they are on sale). I spent a couple hours working on an Excel Spreadsheet for this exact reason and when I came across this AWESOME spreadsheet from (disclaimer: I've only checked out the PriceBook spreadsheet so I am not endorsing their other ways to manage debt/finances!) and spent another couple hours with my past receipts to get started.

Seeing things broken down in black and white like that gives you an interesting insight into how your money is being spent! Only after inputting my purchases, did I come to find out that one of the items (Frozen Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts) I typically waited to go to Costco for is actually $0.46/lb more expensive than when it's on sale at Safeway! Now I know when chicken is on sale at Safeway for $1.99, it's actually a better deal! I used to kick myself for having to buy chicken at Safeway, always thinking it was so much more expensive! Now I'm REALLY kicking myself.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Menu Monday

Seeing as how I am 37 weeks pregnant, family and friends are sweeping in and saving my tired body from having to cook a couple nights this week! I'm not sure I'm going to be able to deal with not having to cook all weekend long! (oh, who am I kidding?? I'll manage!)

Monday: Beer Can Chicken
Tuesday: Baked Penne (making an extra night's serving for the freezer)
Wednesday: Spicy Tuna Melts
Thursday: Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole (a new recipe! If I like it, it'll be a staple OAMC)
Friday: Chicken Taco Salads
Saturday: Dinner out with Frugal Missus' Parents
Sunday: Friends bringing our favorite pizza to share!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Frugal Missus Gets Honest

There has been so much talk about the federal gov'ts Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), aka"Cash For Clunkers" program that I felt compelled to write something about it.

When you get down to the brass tax, C4C is just a way to draw Americans further into debt by offering what seems like a great deal (either a $3500 or a $4500 cash rebate) on a new, more fuel efficient car when you trade in your "gas guzzler". That's $3500 - $4500 off a new car, but, really? You are still paying THOUSANDS of dollars you would otherwise not be spending by signing a new lease or loan. I've got an even greater deal in my driveway! A fully paid for reliable vehicle that passes smog. Check it out! I just saved $20k+!!

Now, I know there are a few folks out there that have cars that really should be off the road for a number of reasons (environmentally unsound, safety hazards, etc.), but a vast majority of the people that I've heard cashing in on the C4Cs program are just trading in their minivan for a newer minivan that happens to get better gas mileage. Of COURSE it's fun to get new toys! I mean, who isn't intoxicated by the smell of new car? I am!

There are a couple of things I see wrong with the C4Cs program rules:

1) For passenger automobiles, the new vehicle must have a combined fuel economy value of at least 22 miles per gallon.

I used to drive a 1997 Saturn SL2 that got 26 miles per gallon. I don't see the 22 mpgs as a huge improvement.

2) ...The Act directs NHTSA to set up a program in which owners of vehicles meeting statutorily specified criteria may receive a monetary credit for trading in their vehicle and purchasing or leasing certain new vehicles.

NEW vehicles. You know, the ones that depreciate at the exact moment you sign your John Hancock on the dotted line?? I found this pretty cool website that allows you to calculate your cars depreciation. Here are the examples I did:

Car Price: $25k
Years old when purchased: 0 (ie NEW)
Age of Car at Time of Estimated Value (in years): 1
Car Deprecation: $6250
Estimated Value: $18750

Car Price: $25k
Years old when purchased: 1
Age of Car at Time of Estimated Value (in years): 2
Car Depreciation: $3000
Estimated Value: $22k

You read that right. That $3500 you got in rebate from C4C on a NEW car doesn't even cover depreciation of the first year! You could get a great used car and save almost the entire "rebate" amount, and not have had your "investment" slashed so dramatically in the first year! Not to mention, $25k for a new car and $25k for a used car can be quite a difference when looking at the bells and whistles. It could be the difference between leather and cloth seats, or the XM radio package and a stock CD system.

3) The CARS Act provides two limitations on the duration of the program. First, the program ends November 1, 2009. Second, NHTSA has been appropriated a fixed sum of money ($1 billion) to fund the program.

1 billion dollars. To keep the American Public in debt. Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised when I look at this. Don't we have teachers to pay, potable water to find, and a housing market to fix? Hey, Federal Government Folks, hows about you send me a $4500 check for having paid my mortgage on time every month?

Oh, and this original $1b (that ran out in a matter of days!) doesn't include the possible additional $2b the Assembly approved last Friday for the program (still waiting on the Senate to approve). Go big or go home, right? I mean...we're already in insane debt as a nation. What's a couple billion more? Hell... let's send some to Dr. Evil while we're at it, hrmmmmm???

Ok. I'm almost off my soapbox. One more thing...

A car payment is NOT a way of life!

We have 1 car payment (just paid off a Ford Explorer last month) and once the second car payment is done, that's it for us. Done. Finito. Our Explorer is most certainly still in drivable condition. It's still rather comfy. It fits our family and our needs. No, it doesn't smell like new car anymore. Yes, it has a couple scratches on it. Yes, there are some stains on the carpet. But it's PAID FOR. For 6 years, we paid $542.10 every month. We now have $542.10 in our income to pay off debts every month that we didn't have for the past 6 years. Once our second car is paid off, we'll have almost $1100 A MONTH in our pockets. With that, we'll be saving for a while to purchase a great used car WITH CASH.

So, Cash For Clunkers? I don't think so... at the risk of offending some readers, I think it would be more aptly called Debt for Suckers.

Hey man, I told you was getting honest in the post title.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Menu Monday

Here we are... another week, another menu! This week was hard for me because we've decided to make our budgets go from the 10th of the month to the 10th of the next month becuase that's how our paychecks roll in. That means that we had to stretch yet another week to keep things under control until August 10th.

It's a funny thing... writing down the menus each week, and being held somewhat accountable to them via the blog and readers we've gathered, I notice how often I make adjustments to the menu! For example, we had a family member over for dinner last Thursday, so instead of having to use twice my freezer stash of the Sweet and Spicy Kielbasa (costing me twice as much, obviously), we moved our Pizza night to Thursday. We ended up having enough pizza left over to have yet another pizza night on Friday! YAY!!! So, that means I have another night of Kielbasas on this weeks menu :)

Monday: Burgers
Tuesday: Angel Hair and Italian Sausage
Wednesday: Turkey Tacos
Thursday: Sweet and Spicy Kielbasa
Friday: Chicken Spinach Salads
Saturday: Honey Glazed Chicken
Sunday: Salsa Chicken

Friday, July 31, 2009

Frugal Family Can't Wait

I have no doubt in my mind that we will be one of these folks, holding a sign, changing our lives and our family forever. It makes me shed a tear just to think of the possibilities! Get inspired!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Frugal Missus Finds YOU Money!

... well, hopefully!

Just go to The National Assosication of Unclaimed Property Administrators website , click on your state (make sure you do it for all the states you've lived in!), and search for any names you've had (ie, married chicks, check your maiden names too!). Frugal Mister had an overpayment of $72 to an insurance company he used many years back and we got that money back!! It was always our money to begin with, but why leave it in limbo when you can have it to pay some debts you may have accrued?

You're Welcome ;)

Frugal Missus Thanks You

I just needed to brain purge for a minute. This isn't technically a journal entry because DR didn't instruct me to write about this, but it's been on my mind and I feel I need to get it out there!

I fully recognize that we are in the "Honeymoon Phase" of our journey with Dave. We've been at this for just about 2 weeks, but Frugal Mister and I have both marveled at the sense of clarity and purpose we feel in our lives now that we are living by the plan. I can only hope that some of you guys out there will feel the same sort of peace if you decide to take a journey similar to ours.

Like a marriage, things mellow after a while. You find yourself savoring the sweetness that is love, not the burn that is lust. This is a change to your way of life. It's not always easy. There are fights, compromise, and a learning curve when it comes to melding your life with another person.

This is true, also for the journey to financial peace. There are things I will miss about my "single life", but knowing I am making my family a better unit for it is all the motivation I need! Well, that's not entirely true...

I need YOU. I need to THANK YOU. Through the years, it's been suggested to me that I have a blog with my menu, organizing ideas, frugal tips, etc., but I knew there were so many other great blogs out there that served that purpose! I've gotten many communications from Frugal Fam readers telling me how amazing/cute/inspiring this blog is for them. It's given people ideas to help set their lives on a path they want, rather than life leading them. That, in turn, inspires me to keep going!

So, no pressure... but keep loving this blog. Share it with someone you think might need a push in the right direction. Keep looking back at old posts. And please, always feel you can ask us questions, leave comments, share a tip or two (I might do a "From the Readers" tip post some day! You could be famous!), and give us general feedback and encouragement because it really does help us in our ultimate goal.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Frugal Missus Gets Organized

It's so much easier to stay on track and within our written budget when I feel organized! Today, I did just that.
I made my frugal idea of DR's Envelope System with small colorful envelopes from The Dollar Tree and used some scrapbook stickers I had on hand to label each envelope. I chose to try to find a frugal method of this rather than Dave's Designer System that I really want. If the envelopes prove too small (which might happen since they are smaller than a dollar bill), I'll use some of my "Blow" money to buy the $19.95 system. I figured I'm just out an extra buck if it doesn't work, and if it does, I've saved $18.95 plus shipping! I put the dollar amount each envelope gets in total each month but have it split according to our Allocated Spending for each paycheck. After all, I can't spend our entire month's paycheck before we even get it! It also serves to make sure I don't blow our whole gas budget before the month is over!

I also made use of a larger sized whiteboard I purchased a few years ago to keep track of my to-do list for school. A couple weeks ago, I made a grid with my dry-erase marker and wrote my menu for the week. I got so annoyed at the grid getting messed up because I'd brush against it. So, this morning, I made the lines solid with electrical tape and the days of the week with scrapbook stickers I had on hand. I "splurged" on some new dry erase markers last night at My Happy Place in 3 different colors. One is for my menu, one is for my schedule and to-do list that week, and one is for Frugal Mister's schedule. The blank space is used for general "to-do" items that I'll need Frugal Mister's help with on his off hours.

What have you done to get yourself organized? Made a Google Calendar for your menus? Huh? Huh? I can't heeeeeear you! ;)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Princess Pulls Her Weight

As I journaled about before, The Princess is very helpful around the house already. I've been worried about starting her on Commissions because I didn't want her habits to turn from "helpful" to "Show Me The Money!". However, I think we have come up with a reasonable list of Commissionable tasks that we don't expect her to do all the time now, but that she is fully capable of doing when asked.

  1. Put away her folded laundry
  2. Clean up toys before naptime
  3. Clean up toys before bedtime
  4. Recycle!
Each of those tasks we will ask her to do for Commission. If she does them, she gets paid. If she doesn't, well, I'll let you figure that one out.

The Recycling task is a different type of task though. Frugal Mister gets the credit for this one! We recycle (Do It! All the cool kids are!) everything we can in our city provided recycleable containers, but thought we could teach a very good lesson with the bottles and cans we typically just give to the city!

The Princess already helps clear the table after dinner, which typically includes Frugal Mister's empty soda can. Rather than just throwing it in with all the other non-refundable recyclables, we will encourage The Princess to separate it into it's own bin. At the end of the month, we will take all the cans to the recycling place behind the local grocery store and her "work" all month long will be paid to her! It's another form of "if you work, you get paid", because if she doesn't put them in the seperate container, she won't get paid! If her task sheet says she only put the cans in for half the month and Mom and Dad did it the rest of the month, she'll get half of the earnings. Simple, right? Well, as simple as working with a 3 year old can be! We'll be doing the first month so she understands how it works and we'll start our Commission Tasks around her birthday next month.

Frugal Missus Joins a Committee

We had our first "Budget Committee Meeting" this weekend, for which both Frugal Mister and I were very excited! I know... it's a sickness.

Frugal Mister journaled below about the different forms DR provides us and how he took to them, which I am THRILLED that he liked them so much. As I've said before, most of what DR teaches us, I've had the idea of before even knowing who DR was! The Allocated Spending is one of those things that I knew I liked the idea of, but the Type A in me needed a written form to tell me what to do, and the Type A in Frugal Mister needed a form that I didn't throw together! DR is an angel in that respect! He filled a need for both of us!

Like Frugal Mister, I am very excited about our monthly Budget Committee Meetings. Dave warned us that our first few would be hard. That we'd have conflict over where we thought money should go. I am incredibly pleased to report that that didn't happen. We just focused, compromised, and listened to each other. It felt as if we really had formed a committee, with equal amounts of input, and I have to say, that feelts great.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Frugal Mister's foray into Cash Flow Planning

We finished up the Cash Flow Planning/Budget lesson this weekend. A wealth of information to be had, without a doubt. The final lesson included some questions for the journal (blog) that I wanted to address here:

  • What’s the difference between a “monthly cash flow plan” and an “allocated spending plan”? Which one is best suited for you?

  • List the bills in your budget that are due irregularly (bi-monthly, bi-annually, etc.) How have you traditionally prepared for them? Is there a better way?

  • How difficult was it for you to prepare your initial budget? Do you think it will get easier as you move forward?

  • I was a little put off initially by the allocated spending plan. It seemed cumbersome and not really necessary after completing the monthly cash flow plan (budget). I couldn't have been more incorrect. The CFP is, in my estimation, more of an overview of how much you are budgeting (e.g. $400 for food, $556 for car payment, $2500 for mortgage, etc.). The ASP is where the rubber really meets the road.

    The way the ASP works is you start with your income (we get paid bi-monthly) and you allocate what bills get paid when and how much. For example, our mortgage is due early in the month, but our car payment is due at the end. We pay the mortgage with our first paycheck and our car payment with our second. The amazing thing is that DR utilizes a zero-sum budget. That is to say, at the end of your ASP, your total should be zero. With each item, the money budgeted is subtracted from the money earned. Say I earn $1000 in the first pay period and our mortgage was $150. The entry after $150 would now be $850. That $850 is all I have left to allocate my funds to. Every dollar in the budget has a name, an identity, a destination....including BLOW money.

    What is BLOW money, you ask? That's $$ you know darn well you're going to waste. DR says if you budget for it, you can still do it. It gives us a sense of freedom. A sense that our money is working for us, not independent of us.

    We will continue to use both the CFP and the ASP on a monthly basis!

    The bills we see irregularly are things like garbage, water, and property tax. Used to be we'd get the bills and just adjust our weak excuse for a budget. "Honey, let's watch our spending this week!" That was my financial advice to the Missus. It least well enough to get everything paid on time. Where it failed us is we never saw any kind of light at the end of the tunnel.

    Now? We divide those bills into equal parts over the course of a quarter or the year. Water is usually about $90 every three months. Instead of trying to scrape together $90 in a month, we now allocate $30 into a "sinking fund" (savings). So, when the bill comes due, BAM, we've already got it saved for.

    Initially preparing the budget wasn't as difficult for us because I've religiously used Quicken for years. I update and balance my accounts numerous times within the month. I always knew how much we had. The difference now is I know exactly where it's all going.

    Like I've said in previous posts, the Missus and I have always been great communicators with each other. Having the CFP and the ASP in action and physically writing them down was a pleasure because it only served to show us we can do it. I whole-heartedly believe it will only get easier from here on out!

    Menu Monday

    This is my menu for the last week of July. We've been living by our budget as much as possible for the past 15 days, but have a new one all ready to go for August. I'm excited/invigorated/ slightly nervous about adopting our new budget for a full month, but I'll save all that for another post later this week.

    Because we didn't live by a written budget for the first half of the month, I found my grocery budget was GONE before the last week! So, I took stock of what I had in my freezer and *voila*! An entire week of menu without having to buy any ingredients! Seriously. I'll go to the store for milk (we drink a ton) and some romaine lettuce because we eat an insane number of salads, but past that, we're good to go!

    I encourage you to take stock of what you have already in the weeks you find your wallet tight, but encourage you even more to have a realistic written budget and menu plan accordingly!

    Steaks and French Fries
    Tuesday: Italian Sausage and Pesto Linguine
    Wednesday: Chicken Foccacia Sandwiches
    Thursday: Sweet and Spicy Kielbasa
    Friday: PIZZA NIGHT!!!
    Saturday: Bacon and Eggs
    Sunday: Lima Bean Soup (we didn't have it last week because of overtime shifts)

    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    Quote Of The Day

    "The best time to start was 20 years ago. The next best time to start is now." - Dave Ramsey

    The Missus Shares More Tips

    I told you the list would grow!

    I've decided to just add to the old list and republish it so all my tips will be in one handy dandy place for reference!


    Friday, July 24, 2009

    Frugal Mister gets down to brass tax

    Yes, I know, technically it's brass tacks, but this is a financial blog. Make the leap...

    The brass item we're facing now is better known as the Budget. I've religiously balanced my checkbook for years. Particularly since marrying the Missus, I've been relied on to make sure we had enough to get from the first of the month to the end. Up until this week's budget lesson, I thought that what I was doing was, in fact, budgeting. I was wrong.

    Sure, I was paying the bills and providing, but only insofar as saying, "Missus, stop buying stuff 'till we get paid again." In retrospect, I never really understood a least a true budget. I was operating under the impression, mistakenly as it turns out, that once written, a budget is in stone. I don't know why I always thought that, but I did. Perhaps I just never gave it enough serious thought. As luck would have it, those days are over.

    The questions posed in this week's lesson were "Have you ever lived on a budget before? What is your "gut reaction" to the word "budget"? Does it bring positive or negative images to mind? What has created those associations for you?

    I think I more or less answered the first one, but, for the sake of clarity, I'll answer with "sorta". My gut reaction to "budget" is kind of a nervous anxiousness. Not anxious in a negative connotation, but like you look forward to something. Geez, what a Nerd. With regard to images, I think it's mostly positive. I think hammering out a budget and sticking to it will help our money go further and make it work for us instead of simply disappearing and leaving us wondering where in the world it went. I think my associations with the budget have more recently been adapted to a more positive spin, even pre-DR, because of the Communication and Love in our marriage. This is just another obstacle for the Missus and I to master. There is literally nothing we can't do together. Except create matter. That's just physics.

    Missus Frugal Gets Crafty

    Frugal Mister and I started putting together a Big Girl Room for The Princess long before we decided to get serious about our financial hole. We put a little money into some paint for the room and some furniture (and bought a new bed with one of those 90 Day Same as Cash "deals" that would have Dave Ramsey kicking us in the gut!), but the long list of wants for finishing touches (crown moulding, baseboards, etc.) is going by the wayside for now. Instead, I am looking at some seriously frugal ways to repurpose what we already own!

    We bought a 6 drawer dresser off Craigslist a few months back, and I painted the white frame a slightly darker shade of blue than the light blue of the walls, leaving the drawers white so they'd really *pop*. I shopped around for some glass knobs to replace the god awful red plastic ones that came on the dresser (it reminds me of 6 little clown noses. Not exactly the look I'm going for in her Shabby Chic Big Girl Room!). The only ones that appealed to me were from Anthropologie, but at $8 each, I couldn't pull the trigger. It would have totally defeated the purpose of buying the dresser on craigslist and saving a few bucks!

    So, I look at those hideous red knobs day in and day out. Until a little godsend came along in the form of One Pretty Thing. On OPT, a link was posted to Ready For Anything who posted directions for fabric covered knobs! I LOVE the look of them and will be trying my hand at this little Frugal Find in the coming days! She used wooden knobs, but since I have them and don't care about them, I'm going to first try to cover the plastic knobs and see how the fare. I'll be sure to take pictures, so stay tuned!

    Thursday, July 23, 2009

    Frugal Missus Journals: Kids and Money

    What do you think of Dave’s “commission” structure for kids? Is this something you could easily implement in your home?

    There is a HUGE difference between "Commission" and "Allowance"! In Dave's lesson "Kids and Money", he states that, to him, "allowance" sounds like "welfare"; that you give allowances to your kids because they are unable to do anything of value, so you are going to make allowances for them. Commission, on the other hand, means if you work, you get paid, if you don't work, you don't get paid. BRILLIANT!!!

    Enter the good ol' fashioned Chore Chart! Each "chore" is worth X amount (Dave paid $1 per chore. I'm inclined to think we'll be paying a little less to start), and as the chores are completed, a check mark is placed in the box next to it. At the end of the week, you sit down with your child and pay them their commission for each chore done.

    I've been working since I was 11 when I started babysitting. When I was 14, I got my first "real" job, dusting shelves at a collectibles store (you know, engraved pewter stuff and embroidered blankets). At 15, I worked at Baskin-Robbins. At 18, I was a receptionist in a hair salon. At 19, I waited tables. At 22, I nannied. I KNOW the more you work, the more money you get, and when you don't show up, you don't get paid!

    I wish, after so many years of working and earning, I had known the fiscally responsible route to take with my money rather than piddling it away on candy, makeup, and when I got older, adult beverages and pedicures! I had nothing to show for my aching feet (hence the pedicures) but a pretty good social life and a bucket-o-debt.

    That stops now. The Princess is almost 3 and will be learning about working for your money, saving for special purchases, and giving a portion of her earnings. I think we'll be getting Dave's Financial Peace Jr. Kit for The Princess' birthday. She already enjoys putting away her laundry, helping clear the table at dinnertime, and cleaning up her room (it's a sickness, really. She is her mother's child!), so why not show her that her hard work and helpfulness can benefit her and help her reach goals?

    I do like that Dave reserves some tasks for "just 'cuz you're a part of the family". Meaning, not EVERYTHING they do around the house earns them commission. I don't know about you, but I don't want to have to pay The Princess every time I want her to pick up her shoes from the middle of the kitchen, but her help in picking up her toys before she goes to bed is something that is commission worthy.

    Frugal Mister and I haven't worked out the Commission List for The Princess yet, but I am leaning towards not giving commission for things that are health/hygiene related (brushing teeth, taking showers, etc.). I am sure this, along with everything in this program, will be a learning experience for us all and take some fine tuning.

    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    Frugal Missus Shares Some Tips

    I've stared compiling a list of things I do to live frugally and thought I'd share it with you! I've added a tag for "Frugal Tips" because I am sure this list will grow, out of necessity, as we continue on our financial journey. Take what you want, leave what you don't. Enjoy!

    Menu Plan!
    Check out my Menu Monday post for details!

    Live by the "One In, One Out" rule
    No more quarter bottles of shampoo sitting next to the bottle you just bought at Target. I keep a list of Household Purchases we need (toiletries, paper products, cleaning supplies, etc.) and wait until the very last minute to buy them. If the price is INSANELY good, go ahead and buy two of them! But make sure you have
    1) a place to store the stocked up products
    2) the money in your budget to stock up
    3) the ability to remember that you had an extra tube of toothpaste in the closet before going out and buying another one.

    Always, ALWAYS, shop with a list!!
    If you are anything like me, Target (my happy place), is a void where paychecks go to die. The less often I go for a "quick run", the less likely I am to spend. If I go with a longer list, I feel less need to aimlessly wander the aisle (you know you've done it too!).

    Not All Dollar Stores Are Created Equal
    Call them The $.99 Store, The Dollar Tree, or The Dollar Store, you know the establishments I am referring to! In a 3 mile radius of my house, I have all of them, and a "Dollar" Store where everything is $1.25 (What a racket!). I buy party decorations, favors, gift wrap, sand toys, and even some toiletries (they have Kid's Colgate Toothpaste! It's $2.89 at Safeway!) at The Dollar Tree by my house, but have had NO luck at The $.99 Store, which incidentally is walking distance from my humble abode! What I'm trying to say is that just because you've been in one Bargain Store like the ones noted above, you have NOT been in them all!! Give 'em another shot.

    Buy in Bulk
    Gotta love those big warehouses that have all the stuff you never thought you'd need but could never live without! I have been a longtime member of Costco, and find it's worth the renewal fee each and every year (I believe it's $40 for our business membership that we have through my Dad's biz). It's almost always cheaper to buy in bulk, but the scary part is when you buy more than you can afford and more than you can store! I have my list of 10 or so items that I buy everytime because I know they are so much cheaper than my local Safeway (then again, what isn't??). Again, I only shop with a list because the deals are just so awesome that I could spend an entire paycheck there if I'm not careful! Plus, the list helps me get in and out of the chaos with my sanity intact (for the most part... I still usually have to take The Princess, who, at 3 years old, is not as helpful as she may think she is!)

    Pool Your Resources
    Frugal Missus has a Sister and a Mom who like a good deal as much as she does! SO, when it comes time to buy trash bags, Ziplocs, or dishwashing liquid, I turn to them! As I stated above, buying in bulk is the way to go, but do you always want/need to purchase a years worth of Dawn? No!! So, find a couple of frugal friends and share the big stuff! You get the great deal, plenty of product, and your friends reap the benefits too! I just start making a list of all the household items I need to buy and run the list by my sister and mom. They put their initials next to whatever they want and I go shopping! If you can afford it in your budget, you can just pay for all the goods up front and they can pay you back, or, if you know how much each item costs, you can get paid beforehand. I find it easier to just pay the whole tab and get reimbursed since I know they are good for it.

    Love Your Library
    Frugal Mister is anything but frugal in the mind. That man absorbs books like cotton and water! His Barnes and Nobel addiction could very well put us in the poor house! In the time it takes me to read 1 book, he's finished 4. Do you get the gist?? He reads. A lot. In the past year, we've become very familiar with our local library. Not all books are available immediately upon release, but for the can't-beat-it-price, we deal with the wait. We are able to hop online, put a hold on the books, and get a phonecall or an email letting us know when the books are available to be picked up (usually 2-3 days if it's not checked out). I love going to the library with The Princess because she gets to pick a few new books out and learns all about how the library works! A bonus is that if I don't particullarly like a book's message it's sending to her, I can just take it back! There is no money lost!

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    Frugal Mister finance free?

    Like Frugal Missus has explained, journaling is an important part of FPU, so I won't belabor the point here. Suffice it to say, we're going to try and answer some of the questions posed to us at the end of each lesson we complete.

    The one I'm going to tackle today is:

    In this session, Dave introduced the notion of actually paying cash for major purchases. This is something we’ll talk about A LOT as we work through FPU. As we get started, what are your initial reactions to the idea of never borrowing money again? Do you think this is too extreme?

    This lesson covered saving for emergencies and purchases. We've made it through Baby Step 1: Our $1000 Emergency Fund and now we're moving toward Baby Step 2: Paying off Debt. The concept of never borrowing money again is just that...a concept.

    I find it difficult to wrap my brain around it. Since college, I've become pre-conditioned to borrow money. Hell, I borrowed money to go to college (all five of them, thank you very much). So, the idea of no longer enslaving myself to the Bank of Gimme is completely alien to me. I've been able to get some very nice things in the past 20 years. The majority of them have been paid off, but at what cost? I'll guarantee you I ended up paying far more than they were worth at the end of my payments. It's an irritating thought, but true nonetheless.

    The idea of never borrowing again is at once exciting and fear-instilling. Lord knows, I am an adrenaline junkie...perhaps this can be a high of one kind or another. I don't think the idea is too extreme at all. I think this country is getting it's backside handed to itself because we've spent the last fifty years or so borrowing ourselves into the poor house.

    Perhaps I'm wrong, though. Perhaps the idea is just extreme enough. Extreme enough to motivate Frugal Missus and I to right our own ship. Extreme enough to encourage us to go against where a lifetime of instruction and habit have gotten us.

    So, yeah, on second thought, I absolutely think it's an extreme idea. Just extreme enough to work.

    Frugal Missus Journals: Marriage and Money

    After each video lesson in Financial Peace University (FPU), we are given a to-do list that we must complete before we have access to the next lesson. Part of our to-do list is to start a journal. In the program, there is an application for a journal, but both being bloggers, Frugal Mister and I decided to use this blog as our outlet. Lucky you!

    We're given 3 questions to answer in our journals. I figure it'll keep us honest and focused as to what this blog is about if we answer at least one of them here.

    So, let us begin!

    If you are married, describe how you and your spouse traditionally communicate about money. Do you fight about it? Do you ever talk about money at all? Do you have written goals for your income?

    When Frugal Mister and I were going to get married, we had pre-marital conversation with the priest who would be marrying us. As a jumping off point for these sessions, we individually took tests that assessed various facets of life that are come with marriage (communication, money, sex, family, etc). Using the results, we were able to have serious conversations about what our future could possibly hold in regards to those matters. To be general, we scored 100% on the Communication portion of the test. That is, we answered the questions exactly the same.Needlesstosay, we very rarely "fight", and when we do, it's typically about household chores, not money.

    However, on the Money portion of the test, we scored LOW. I mean... LOW. (I don't remember the actual percentage because it was 5+ years ago, but I want to say it was 10%). We were on such different pages back then, it was pathetic. At that time, Frugal Mister had been stable in his career for a number of years with a good grasp on budgeting using Quicken Software. Sure, we both had some bad habits (like using credit cards far too often), but at least he paid his bills on time! I had a LOT of learning to do!

    So, I defaulted to Frugal Mister keeping track of our finances. He says it relaxes him, but I still don't see how because every "cha-ching!" I hear ring out of the computer when he's using Quicken makes my heart speed. I suppose that is a residual effect of us having vastly different views of money. He has Faith, I have Fear.

    For the 4.5 years of our marriage, money isn't talked about too much. Yes, I brought up principles Dave Ramsey talks about before I knew there was a Dave, but we never did anything about it. We were "happy" living paycheck to paycheck. Well, we were glad to make the bills, to have our nice toys, and for me to be able to stay home with our children. I shouldn't say not making progress on our debt made us happy, by any stretch, but it was easier to deal with when we knew we could keep the lights on, so to speak.

    By using Dave's principles, I have found us being much more open with our money; where it has gone and where we want it to go. Frugal Mister has always budgeted out a month or two so we could keep an eye on our spending (him on video games, me on groceries). If we knew we'd have the bills paid and had $1000 in the account, we were doing pretty darn good! If we only had $500, he'd tell me, "watch the spending", but it wasn't specific as to what we were overspending on. I hope having our written budget each month will help us know where we're overspending from one month to the next. For example, so far, I am $13 over in my grocery budget with an entire week to have to buy for! My menu for next week will have to reflect that overage. We'll eat less expensive meals and I'll raid my freezer meals to make up the difference. I actually don't think it's too bad of an overage, considering we didn't start this journey until July 15! I look forward to seeing how our numbers reflect our hard work at the end of August!

    Monday, July 20, 2009

    Frugal Missus Makes a Menu

    I'm not the worlds greatest cook, by any stretch, but I do take pride in my ability to menu plan, execute a new recipe, bargain shop, and make a semi-decent meal out of what I have in the house on the days when the money just isn't there. However, just because I have the ability doesn't mean I've always put it in to practice! During our "flush months", when Frugal Mister was able to work mass amounts of overtime and it showed in his paycheck, I would go crazy with our meals. I'd buy expensive cuts of meat, buy extra veggies and fruits because they were just calling my name, or "stock up" on toiletries at my happy place, Target.

    What I'd end up with was meat that would sit in the freezer for far too long because we ended up not being able to afford to buy all the ingredients to put that nice cut to good use, fruits that got mushy, veggies that spoiled, and 3 bottles of partially used conditioner!

    No more. Because of that super strict written budget, our months will look frightening similar from one to the next! Any "extra" money Frugal Mister's paycheck brings us goes directly to paying off debt and watching our snowball gain momentum! Hence, the need for a written menu plan.

    There are many benefits to menu planning!
    1. The food you buy, you actually USE!
    2. You can plan healthy and well rounded meals by seeing what you've eaten in the past week.
    3. You save yourself from those irritating last minute dashes to the store in the pre-dinner hour to get ingredients.
    4. Gone is the stress that hits you at 4pm when you wonder what's for dinner!
    5. It's really REALLY easy. Really.
    In the past, I'd plan out the month with exact meals for each day of the week. I know now that it's unrealistic to expect me to know exactly what the Frugal Family will feel like eating/how many leftovers we'll have in the fridge/if we have plans with family or friends/etc. In other words, I was planning meals that most often still went unused! I'm not sure I know of anyone that can say for certain how an entire month will pan out for their mealtimes!

    So, I came up with a solution. First, I wrote out Frugal Family's favorite meals (23 so far, but I know I am missing some) and put them into categories.
    • Salads
    • Pastas
    • BBQ (Frugal Mister's nights to cook!)
    • Mexican
    • Sandwiches
    • Once-a-Month Cooking (OAMC)
    • Crockpot
    • Brinner (Breakfast for Dinner)
    • Special Meals (the ones that cost a bit more but are huge family faves)
    I then took those categories to Google Calendar and made a new calendar with just the categories. I like that this method gives me flexibility in the recipes I choose for each week, but I don't have to over think what should be on the menu for the week! I just pick from the category on the calendar and TA-DA! A menu!

    We very rarely eat out and I am doing the vast majority of the cooking, which means I am one tired Missus by the end of the day. So, I included on the Master Menu BBQ nights when Frugal Mister can do one of his tried and true dishes or find a fun new recipe for us to try! Either way, I get a break from the cooking!

    In our written budget, we have $40 for dinners out per month. However, I am going to relish the fact that Frugal mister is making a meal a week and am going to abide by only going to Papa Murphy's Take n' Bake every 3 weeks for our dinner out. Also, I'll only go if we have a coupon. We can get a large pizza for $9.99 (plus tax) which is enough for dinner and lunch the next day! I get excited just thinking about my first no-cooking night :)

    So, without further ado, I give you Menu Monday. I will be posting my menu for the week, to help keep me honest and to hopefully help you all out in your quest to reap the benefits of Menu Planning! I can't promise the menus will be anything fancy, but they do the trick and with the right amount of dollars spent (hopefully).

    Bon Appetit!

    Monday: Beer Can Chicken, Green Salad, Corn on the Cob
    Tuesday: Pasta Salad w/ leftover chicken from Monday's meal
    Wednesday: Salsa Chicken, Cold Corn Salsa
    Thursday: Leftovers (Frugal Mister is working overtime)
    Friday: Chinese Chicken Salads, Trader Joes Chicken Fried Rice
    Saturday: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, French Fries
    Sunday: Swiss Inches (Enchiladas), Mexican Rice

    Quote of the Day

    "Having been a millionaire and gone broke, I dug my way out by making decisions about looking good and being good. Looking good is when your broke friends are impressed by what you drive, and being good is having more money than they have." - Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover

    Sunday, July 19, 2009

    Frugal Missus Frugally Decorates

    We're having some old friends of Frugal Mister's over for dinner tonight and I, of course, want to make a good impression! I whipped up this little centerpiece for our dining table with some old Classico Pasta Suace jars, play sand from The Princess' sand and water table, votives I had laying around, and sea glass I bought a couple years ago from The Dollar Store.

    It just goes to show you, you don't have to spend ANY extra money to make an evening special!

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Frugal Missus Socializes

    A group of friends are going out for dinner and drinks tonight. Sounds great, right? Not as great when your monthly budget doesn't have room for it! Does that mean I have to lose all connections with the outside world and become a hermit while we pay off our debt? NO!!

    Girls Night Out (GNO) is scheduled to start at 7pm and because we are early eaters (I've been known to have dinner on the table at 5pm if not before!!), I can eat my planned dinner at our normal time and still be able to enjoy some social time while snacking on the free chips and salsa at the Mexi restaurant! It's a last minute date, so I'll be drinking water, but had I been able to budget for it, I could have splurged on a non-alcoholic fruity drink (lord knows the N/A drinks are cheaper!).

    In any case, I look forward to escaping the house for some quality time with some of my favorite people!

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Frugal Mister Works... a lot.

    For nearly five years now, it's been my responsibility to provide for the Missus. Three of those years have included one daughter and soon to include a second offspring. In the last three years, I have worked an average of around 35 hours of overtime (OT) a month. This month, I'm hitting the 69.5 hour mark. Next month? 46. I've been doing this every month for three years. I'm tired.

    I'm tired of being at work and not with my family. I'm tired of being tired from working so much when I'm actually with my family. I'm tired of looking at our bills twice a month and not seeing much headway. (Although, we did pay off a six year loan for our Ford last month!) I'm tired of swearing up and down every February when we get our taxes done and we pay off our credit cards that "this'll be the year we don't use 'em!!" Sure, it won't.

    That's not to say we haven't had our share of successes. The aforementioned Ford being toward the top. We've a lovely home, a comfortable life, and we are, by and large, very happy. We've a fantastic marriage, a beautiful daughter, and a growing family. We don't argue about money. Honestly, we don't argue about much. The budget does, however, provide stress from time to time. Well, stress' time is done. It's our time now.

    With FPU and Dave's help, I think we've discovered the motivation and proper plan to appropriately deal with our debt. Herein, we will document our highs and inevitable lows insofar as our journey goes. FPU recommends journaling. We are blog whores, so what better way to journal...especially since I think I'll actually contribute in this arena. This is a public blog, so you (whether you know it or not) are helping us hold our feet to the fire!

    So, thanks in advance for reading and your support.

    The Frugal Family Introduces Themselves

    The Frugal Family leads a pretty great life. We live in a nice home, have 2 nice cars, a trailer for vacations, 2 college degrees, and a myriad of toys to keep us entertained (children included!). But, at the end of the day, Frugal Mister is tired from working necessary overtime to keep us provided for (of which he does an amazing job). The last thing I want is for him to burn out on a job he is made for and carries a passion for.

    With all the things we've accumulated in our lifetimes, also comes debt. I hate debt. I hate debt so much it makes my palms sweat and my heart rate go up just thinking of paying bills. I'm not sure there has ever, in my life, been a time that money, or lack thereof, hasn't been a source of stress for me. That's not to say Frugal Mister isn't doing his "duty", if you will, and keeping bills paid and food coming. Every single month, we do it. Some months are scarier than others, but we've never not made a house payment/utilities payment/car payment/etc. There have been some months that we both just shake our heads in disbelief that, on top of Frugal Mister's providing and my household budgeting, God has always provided for us. Always.

    Though we credit God for helping us through some rough times and for generally keeping an eye on us in good, I have always felt like we should be able to give back more! However, it's just not possible with the accumulation of debt that we have (for all the aforementioned "things"). I would love to be able to go to church and put more than $1 in the offering plate. In my life, I've gotten more out of church than I have out of school! It's only right to help when we can!

    So, through some major talks and consideration, The Frugal Family is embarking on a new journey. Though we could keep living paycheck to paycheck, paying those bills on time, everything status quo, we want more. We want more for our children. We want to be that change we want to see in the world, and that starts in our home, with our kids.

    We've enrolled in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. We, as a family, are sticking by a very strict written budget, to be able to conquer the 7 Baby Steps (we're on Step 2!). That means, if we are invited out for something, we might have to decline based on REAL funds, not on our desire to hang out with you! That means, if we "do dinner" at our house, it'll have to fit in our regular weekly budget. If we "do coffee", it'll have to come out of our "dining out" money (which also includes Frugal Mister's lunches while at work). If we have to decline, it's not because we don't love you! Honest!!

    Most of Dave's suggestions are ones I have thought of independently but having them written down, in those 7 Steps, makes it seem ok to try to do. By sticking through with our Debt Snowball, we are on track to pay off ALL of our debt (except for the house) in around 4 years. Cars, trailer, credit cards, student loans... ALL of it. Freedom. Bliss.

    I know it's not going to be an easy journey some days. Some days, I simply don't want to cook. I want to have my feet pampered. I want to go laze around on white sandy beaches with some fruit concoction. But for now, I'll have to make peace with a meal BBQed by my amazing husband, digging in to my Body Shop products for my tootsies, and The Princess' sandbox.

    Come to think of it, that doesn't sound too shabby!