Budgeting

How our family is surviving The Great Budgeting Saga of 2015 (hint: not a quick fix in sight)

In case you missed the sensational story of the time I had to have our son’s school hold his tuition check and the time I sobbed in the parking lot of the gym, it’s a must read.  It’s riveting!  It’s exhausting!  It’s miserable.  It’s the starting point to what is hopefully my family’s budget renovation.

Here’s what you won’t find in this story.  Fancy tricks or get rich quick schemes.  We aren’t going to be transferring money from credit card to credit card to avoid paying fees or to rack up some kind of points.  We aren’t gambling.  We aren’t investing all our money in a pyramid scheme.  Why?

THESE DO NOT ADDRESS THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM.  Making more money is fine.  Really.  It’s kind of key to getting out of debt.  But just having more money won’t change the fact that we have seriously mismanaged the money we do have.  What’s that expression?  Live Within Your Means?  You hear so many horror stories of people making more money and spending up.  Buying things on credit or taking expensive trips because “my income has gone up!” only to have something derail the finances.  Emergency, job loss, anything.

This was us.  But we have money coming in!  We’re just fine.  But we weren’t.  Not even a little bit.

First things first.  Let’s make sure we can actually cover our bills before we even spend one minute addressing our spending habits.  We won’t have a roof to sit under and address those habits if we don’t pay our mortgage.

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The Great Budgeting Saga of 2015 or The Time I Cried in the Parking Lot of the Gym

Alright dear ones.  I told you I would give you all the gory details of THE GREAT BUDGETING SAGA OF 2015.  I started by poking around the blog to read a few of the other budgeting posts I have written and realized this disaster is not limited to 2015.  There was The Great Budgeting Saga of 2014 and Taking Back the Budget in 2015.  Reading these made me sad.  And angry with myself.

Nutshell.

In 2014, we were GOOD.  Things were figured out.  Life was paid for.  We were veterans of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and were debt free except for our mortgage.  Then we put one large purchase on our credit card and things snowballed.  We then decided to go ALL THE PLACES and DO ALL THE THINGS and charge EVERYTHING THAT COULD EVER BE CHARGED.

In 2015, we tried to take control of the damage.  In January, we sat down with our yearly calendar and said yes to ONLY the things we really wanted to do and a tough no to all the other things.  We talked about every purchase.  We stayed in instead of going out.

But here’s where it gets tricky.

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My husband and I ran 172 errands this past weekend while he was home for the New Year’s holiday and in between our 7-year old telling knock knock jokes in the truck for an hour straight, we managed to have a decent conversation about our goals for the upcoming year.  As our lives are so intertwined anyway, our goals are fairly similar, but it was really interesting to hear them from his perspective.

As I was preparing to write a post about our goals for 2016, I stumbled across a post I wrote about our goals for 2015.  Apparently, when a year passes, you forget everything you’ve ever written.  I was excited to read the post to see how we did for the year but surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), our goals are VERY similar to what they were last year.

Budget, weight loss/maintenance, meal planning.  Apparently these are recurring themes?  What this tells me is that they are not so much once-a-year resolutions, but something to work on every day of the year.  I love the idea of revisiting our goals at the beginning of the year as a refresher, but keeping them at the forefront throughout the year is a goal in itself.

Setting very actionable goals (read: specific, attainable, with a direct action or behavior correlated with it) is extremely important, but I also love the idea of grand overarching themes for the year.  For example, one of my goals last year was to clean up our disaster of a spare bedroom to use as my office (so I could quit working on the damn couch).  While this was very specific, the overarching theme is for me to be more efficient with my time.

One of my goals for 2016 is to be less wordy.  Just kidding.  I think I should use ALL THE WORDS ALL THE TIME.  Like I did in the intro to this post.

PicMonkey CollageWho is that girl on the left?  And who let her wear red pants??

1. Lose 10-15 pounds

For those of you who have been following me for awhile or know anything about me, you know I’ve already conquered the “get to the gym” part of the fitness journey.  My husband and I do CrossFit 4-6 times per week, so working out isn’t the issue.  We eat really well 85-90% of the time, but over the summer (and last summer and the holidays and probably the spring too) we let the pounds creep on.  Apparently drinking all the vodka that Costco sells is not a weight loss solution?

We work HARD at the gym and put in a lot of time and I’m tired of playing the maintenance game.  I don’t want to go to the gym to attempt to counteract the effects of my weekend food choices.  I want to make good food choices AND train hard.  Now honestly, I’m okay with my weight.  I am.  I work hard and know I don’t have a giant mountain to climb.  But I also know that as hard as I work, things could be better.  I want to FEEL like I work out 4-6 days per week.

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money-saving

Welcome to the life of an occasional spend-all-the-money-in-the-world impulse shopper who sometimes uses a coupon but tries mightily to save money where she can.  Each week I will be sharing one (or more) of the ways I saved our family money or time.  Or both.  The purpose of this series is to highlight the fact that there are SO many different methods you can use to lower your overall budget that don’t involve mad-crazy coupon shopping.

For the last few years, we have picked up our boys’ Halloween costumes at Costco.  They come out in like August, have TONS of styles to choose from, are generally full costumes (accessories, suit, mask) and are a CRAZY good price.  One year I thought I could be crafty and make their costumes.  One year.  Sometimes it is better to just admit where your strengths DON’T lie and make it easy on yourself.

This year was no different.  We let the kids pick out their favorites, tucked them away in the closet and forgot about them.  We won’t let the kids touch them until close to Halloween because, they’re crazy. We’d like them to trick or treat with costumes that aren’t full of holes and still actually snap in the back.  This past weekend, we decided to pull them out and just double check that everything fit right and figure out what the kids would need to wear under their costumes if is cold.

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We have an amazing little samurai warrior and A TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE WITHOUT A SHELL.  I swear I checked each costume up and down for all the parts before we bought, but the belt that comes with the costume is giant and I’m pretty sure I thought it was the shell.  So we have no shell.  A turtle without a shell.  Praise all that is holy that we didn’t wait until Halloween morning.

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money-saving

Welcome to the life of an occasional spend-all-the-money-in-the-world impulse shopper who sometimes uses a coupon but tries mightily to save money where she can.  Each week I will be sharing one (or more) of the ways I saved our family money or time.  Or both.  The purpose of this series is to highlight the fact that there are SO many different methods you can use to lower your overall budget that don’t involve mad-crazy coupon shopping.

Here’s my confession of the day.  I used to be one of those “crazy coupon shoppers”.  When we first went down to one income when our oldest son was born, our grocery budget was the area that had the most flexibility so I started doing some research on ways I could cut it WAAAAAAAY down.  I started following a few coupon and deal blogs and tried my hand at a few couponing transactions.  Pretty soon, I was ordering 3-4 Sunday papers each week and stocking our pantry with 172 boxes of cereal and getting diapers for $2 per pack.  We were spending less than $200 per month on groceries!

A few things happened:

  • The stores started really tightening up their coupon policies and the deals weren’t always quite as prolific as they had been.
  • When our second son was born, my time because so much more scarce.  In order to shop these deals, you really have to be hitting the stores every week, several times per week.
  • We started becoming more and more aware of our eating habits and changing to a more whole foods, clean-eating lifestyle, which is significantly more challenging to cater to on a couponing budget.
  • Our kids started eating solid foods.  And you know, the rest is history and the budget is blown.

The farther and farther I got away from that type of shopping, the easier it was to justify shopping for convenience.

“I’m not spending gas racing around to 12 different stores!  I’m totally saving money.”

Except that our grocery budget had quadrupled at best.  I don’t even know the words beyond that.  Quintupled?

What’s really silly is that every week, I actually write the couponing/deal shopping match-ups for Rite Aid over at my friend Angela’s blog Frugal Living NW.  I hash out and track down the deals and tell everyone else how to shop, but I haven’t been anything approaching consistent when it comes to shopping my own deals.

Times they are a-changing.

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money-saving

Welcome to the life of an occasional spend-all-the-money-in-the-world impulse shopper who sometimes uses a coupon but tries mightily to save money where she can.  Each week I will be sharing one (or more) of the ways I saved our family money or time.  Or both.  The purpose of this series is to highlight the fact that there are SO many different methods you can use to lower your overall budget that don’t involve mad-crazy coupon shopping.

Check your bank account on the regular

This may come and go in seasons for your family.

For example, when I first started staying at home with our kids, we lived strictly on one income and paid cash for EVERYTHING a la Dave Ramsey.  We saved up my husband’s pay checks one month ahead so we could pay all our bills for the following month AND pull cash without having to feel like we were living paycheck to paycheck.  This basically meant that I would check our bank account once or twice a month as everything came out at the beginning of the month, save a few straggly bills.  If you can swing this way of paying for your necessities, it is pretty much hands off and fairly anxiety-free.

We are in a little different stage of life right now (read: the kids’ tuition is TAKING OVER OUR LIFE), so we have to be a little more careful.

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Course registration for my friend Angela of Frugal Living NW’s The Ultimate Couponing Course closes tonight at 6 PM PST and I don’t want you to miss it!  If you have been dying over the outrageousness of your grocery budget and you just KNOW there has got to be a better way or you would just like to learn how to save a few dollars and make grocery shopping more streamlined for your family, this course is worth every penny.

Listen.  I have been a “frugal” and semi-savvy shopper for several years now and I have found myself reverting back to my old cash-be-damned philosophy and WAY overspending.  I watched Angela’s video on how to set your grocery budget and I was totally that person.  The one who thinks they can just use their debit card and manage everything just fine.  We have consistently been a few hundreds dollar over budget every month for the past year and I have to  pull from other budget categories where we really don’t have the extra money.  If I’m honest with myself, I know I can cut our budget down without sacrificing how we eat.  I just have to be a little more intentional.  And not buy everything that was ever put on a Costco shelf.

From Angela:

“100% of those who took action on the information taught in this summer’s course started saving money in the first month. And 82% of those students saved $40 or more which means that more than eight out of ten students who actually started using the skills taught in the course made their $37 back within the first 30 days.”

If you are interested in cutting down your grocery budget by a few dollars or a few hundred dollars, please use this fantastic tool available to you for less than a dinner out for your family.  The course is four weeks with videos (and available replays), live Q&A and much more.

In reading through all of the information I have been given about the course, one thing that sticks out to me is that contrary to the name, this is NOT all about couponing.  You will learn about your budget, strategic shopping, how to save on specialty and allergy-friendly items and much more.  This is NOT all about having a basement full of toilet paper.

Click here to register.  Remember, registration ends at 6 PM PST.

For more on our grocery budget black hole:

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money-saving

When I first started this blog a little over six years ago {WHAAAAAAAT?}, my main focus was on saving money through couponing at the grocery and drug store.  We had just started living solely on one income after having our first child and our grocery budget seemed to be the most logical place to start saving money.

Over the past few years, our family (and the blog) have grown and changed together.  We have made some serious changes to our eating habits and lifestyle, which has meant less focus on shopping with coupons.  While we do use coupons for some of our toiletries and paper products, the majority of our shopping is done in the produce section, at our local farmer’s markets when they are open, Costco and online at stores like Amazon and Tropical Traditions.

With these changes came the realization that we had to figure out different ways to stretch our budget.  We started looking more seriously at our expenses and where we could cut back.  Starting this week, I am going to give you a weekly breakdown of things I do related to saving money, saving time and using both more efficiently and effectively.

This post series is for those of you who want to learn to save money, but can’t imagine yourself going shopping at midnight just to snag a few free rolls of toilet paper.  The vast majority of  us are just average, everyday folks who are trying to stretch our budget and help our families live a better life for less.

This won’t be some lengthy, drawn-out post about what I’m doing every minute of every day, but I just want you to get a general idea of what an average week for me looks like.

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I know we are all in different stages of life, so here’s a quick bio on me just so you know where I’m at:

  • I’m a married, work-at-home Mom to two boys, ages 5 and 7
  • My husband works full time Monday through Thursday (gets home around 6 PM)
  • My husband and I both go to the gym 5-6 times per week, rarely at the same time
  • I have 2.5 hours four days a week with both kids in school
  • I work on the blog early mornings and late into the evening so my “extra” time is pretty rare
  • I take care of our entire family budget and pay all the household bills
  • I clean, cook, carpool, shop, visit with friends, play, cook, clean, do laundry, manage a blog, manage our family calendar and cook some more.  Did I mention I have a blog?

Every Monday, I will give you a general recap on how much TIME I spent trying to save my family money.  I want you to get a glimpse of the non-glamorous, totally average life of a girl just trying to live within her means.

This will be the re-launch to my weekly series that will explore different ways to save your family money, including eating out and entertainment, travel, clothes shopping, buying gifts for everyone in your family and much more.

Welcome to a week in the life.

Do you have any questions or areas you would like me to touch on?  Do you have a particular budgeting area that you struggle with the most?

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A Week in the Life: The Queen of Returns

by Melody on April 16, 2015

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Welcome to a Week in the Life of an occasional spend-all-the-money-in-the-world impulse shopper who sometimes uses a coupon but tries mightily to save money where she can.  Each week I will be sharing a round-up of all the different ways I saved our family money or time.  Or both.  The purpose of this series is to highlight the fact that there are SO many different methods you can use to lower your overall budget that don’t involve mad-crazy coupon shopping.

The Queen of Returns

My husband makes mad fun of me for never trying anything on and returning just about everything.  Granted, I do have this problem, but I don’t think it’s a bad one to have.  I am a stickler for saving receipts and returning anything under the sun that can possibly be returned.  I keep a bag on the counter by my bills and paperwork for “return” items.

While you might not think this is noteworthy, I return things that others might overlook.  I bought a pair of $3 flip-flops at Walmart for a rafting trip and ended up not using them. Return.  Accidentally picked up the wrong athletic tape at Rite Aid. Return.  It may not seem like much, but those items would have collected dust in our house until I eventually donated them or threw them out.

The only caveat here is that I try to not make a trip just to make a return, especially if it’s a lower value item.  I try really hard to combine errands to make it worth it.

In news on bigger items:

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We bought a Zaq Allay diffuser to use in our boys room with essential oils when they were sick and to help with allergies and it just kind of crapped out on us after about a month.  These things get great reviews, so I knew it should have lasted longer.  I had just passed the return window with Amazon so I shot them a quick email.  Not only did they ship me out a new one right away, they paid for shipping for me to return the defective one. Win!

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About a year ago, we bought a Ninja blender at Costco when they went on sale and have quite literally used it every day since.  Not long after we bought it, the handle cracked, which meant I couldn’t click it in place and the blender wouldn’t run on its own.  I had to stand there and hold the handle down through the entire blending process. Which doesn’t seem like a big deal unless you’re packing kids’ school lunches and scrambling eggs and attempting to drink coffee and wrangle little boys into their school clothes all at the same time. #firstworldproblems

It took me almost a year to get all the parts clean at the same time and haul that baby back into Costco, but they returned it for me without a question  or fuss.  I know the return period was quite a long time, but we paid a lot of money for this blender and I felt strongly about the fact that it should not have broken so soon right out of the gate.

P.S. Costco is amazing.

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I bought a pair of AMAZING leather-like leggings from Nordstrom during their Anniversary Sale last July, but didn’t wear them until Christmas.  The first day I wore them, they ripped a hole right along the seam when I was pulling them up after using the restroom.  I did a quick search through my receipt folders, threw them in a box and sent them packing.  Literally.

P.S. Nordstrom is double amazing.

This is why I save my receipts.  I save for all stores that have an awesome return policy or for any items that are over around $20.  I’m not a cheapskate and will not return something if I feel like it was my fault in how I used the item or if I truly feel that the window of time has passed, but I am a huge proponent of getting my money’s worth out of something I buy.  I am not trying to screw over a company (I have met several people while working in retail that live for this), I just want to know that I am getting value and not throwing away my money.

Are you a returner like me?  Would you rather throw away or donate an item before you would EVER return it?

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Taking Back The Budget in 2015

by Melody on February 27, 2015

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So we’ve already discussed how our budget imploded and exploded and drug our entire family through the dirt in 2014.  Getting yourself into trouble is never the hard part.  In fact, it can be quite fun and awesome.  Until you come out the other end and it’s just not.  Not fun or peaceful or relaxing or stress-free.  Not not not.

For several months, my husband and I talked around and around about how we needed to pay off our credit cards, halt our erratic spending, STOP GOING OUT TO EAT.  We always said we’d sit down and hash it out and then we didn’t.  Always.  I truly honestly one hundred percent KNOW that everyone has to be on the same page at the same time in the same frame of mind for budget control to work.  Neither one of us were willing to put our foot down, so the spiraling chaos continued.

January 1st.  Let’s fix this problem!  Whether it was the New Year or the fact that we weren’t going to be able to buy groceries for much longer at the pace we were at, we arrived at the same destination.  This needed to be reined in.

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We reread Dave Ramsey for the 18th time.  We got out the Sharpies and the calculators and the invoices and the bills and all the coffee that was ever made in our house.  In Luke Skywalker mugs.  That I bought for my husband for Christmas but secretly just wanted for myself.

We started with the budget we’ve been following loosely for the last several years.  I say loose because it was as loose as your ex-boyfriends’ 10-year old sweatpants from college.  Most of our bills were correct, but we had never updated to account for my (extremely varied) income.  We used it to make sure our priority bills were paid, that our lights stayed on, that they didn’t repossess our house and our truck, that our children’s schools didn’t kick us out.

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The Great Budgeting Fiasco of 2014

by Melody on February 9, 2015

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Alright people.  Let’s talk about budgeting.  If you have been following me for any length of time, you might be wondering WHY.  Melody, don’t you remember that you are debt free except for your mortgage and are in completely control of your finances with SO MUCH going to retirement and your kids’ college account fully funded?  You told me about it.  Back in 2012.

I’d like to tell you that it was one REALLY BIG mistake that got us off track.  But as is so often the case, it was a number of small decisions that changed the course of our finances.  And our lives.

We were doing great.  No car payments, no credit card bills, no major house repairs on the horizon.  Nothing, nothing, nothing.  We had a small amount of money going into our kids’ college fund, matching retirement from my husbands’ work.

Then we bought a house.  It’s not what you’re thinking.  This was not the catalyst.  We budgeted for months and checked and double checked and hammered out the kinks and MADE SURE we could afford this.

Then we bought a truck.  This wasn’t it either.  While Dave Ramsey says payments are evil (and I do deep down agree), we were on the verge of dumping tons of money into my husband’s old truck or buying something new.  We chose the latter.  Our budget could MORE than cover this.  We were fine.

So tell us already!

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The house we bought was a model home in a newer development and if you’ve ever seen these, you’ll know that the landscaping in the front yard is 100% done to make the house look like a place people could actually live.  The back yard?  A barren wasteland of goat heads and tumble weeds.  At least when you live in the desert.  At the time, our boys were two and four years old and the thought of not having a fenced-in place to play was HARD on this stay at home Momma.  I know people do it, but apparently I’m not strong and not awesome enough to keep two strapping boys from wrestling each other all day long when they are cooped up inside.

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We decided to have a landscaping company come in and do it, as the amount of time my husband has off during the week is very minimal and while he could have done it, it would have taken a VERY long time.  The landscaping dudes were in and out in less than a week and we had GRASS.  And a RETAINING WALL.  Hooray!

Somehow we convinced ourselves that even though we hadn’t saved up for this, it made perfect sense to put it on the credit card and we just KNEW we’d have it paid off within a month or two.  When we had to pay a processing fee to use our credit card, I should have heard the alarm bells.  I should have seen the financial destruction we were heading towards.  I KNOW BETTER.

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I’m going to be launching into a new series detailing our budgeting woes of 2014 and how we are getting back on track (why did we ever get off??), but I wanted to share my favorite budgeting resource with you first.  If you are looking to revive your budget (or actually start one) this year, this will give you a chance to check out this resource BEFORE I launch my series.

Several years ago and newly married, my husband and I were floundering with where to start (or even define) our financial goals.  We both had profoundly different views and could never come to any sort of decision on anything without a heated argument and tears (mostly mine).

A friend of mine let me borrow her copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.  I devoured it and then made my husband read it.  It shocked me how basic the ideas were.  What shocked me even more was that we hadn’t been able to put together these ideas ourselves.  Dave Ramsey took the emotions out of the budget, which was something my husband and I couldn’t do.

If you are just getting started on your budgeting journey, I recommend this book to absolutely everyone.  Some may argue that his ideas are too simple and too basic, but they work.  They might not be fancy and they are most definitely hard work, but his ideas play on our basic nature as humans.  He understands the weaknesses that the majority of us have with money and plows right through them.  No pyramid schemes, no fancy get rich quick promises, just hard, basic work.

You could borrow from a friend first to see what you think or possibly borrow from the library, but this is one of the few books I recommend having your own copy of.  I have read and reread the book so many times, it’s looking pretty haggard.  Even though we know the principles of the book almost by heart, I read it again last month and realized we had fallen WAY off the beaten path without really realizing it.  We had talked ourselves into thinking that we knew better and our methods were more successful.  Which they weren’t.

Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover is currently listed at $14.88 on Amazon (hardcover) or $12.99 for Kindle.  Shipping is free with Amazon Prime or with a qualifying $35 purchase.

Please share with us if you have read this book and are following his plan.  We’d love to hear your tips, tricks and success stories!

To read more about our financial journey, check out my 2012 Budgeting Series.  Stay tuned for my current series in the next week or so!

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Let me tell you about 2014.  It was THE MOST FUN YEAR EVER.  But it was also the year that we said yes to everything, no to absolutely nothing, kicked the budget to the curb and didn’t sleep much.  We are overall very organized people and have had a solid budget and family calendar for years, but last year seemed to be the year of “let’s just wing it” and “hell yeah, I want to go out to eat for the fourth time in a row this week” and “of COURSE we should book another trip to Vegas”.

Here’s the deal.  The problem with 2014 is that we were NEVER on the same page with our life, our budget, our goals.  Nothing.  It wasn’t that we were arguing or disagreeing, we just weren’t talking about the elephant in the room and my heavens, that guy got LARGE.

My husband and I sat down a few weekends ago to revamp our budget.  We used big giant pieces of paper and Sharpies!  Because Sharpies are fun. After we were mostly done, I realized the conversation wasn’t just about budget, but about life.  If you really look at your budget, there are lines for variable income and entertainment and school tuition and the gym and groceries and car payments.  All of these things lead to conversations about whether they could be less or more or cut out entirely.  Life goals!  Dreams and ambitions!  Let’s shop for groceries differently!  It’s awesome.

While these goals in this here blog post are technically personal goals, they are so closely wrapped up with my husband’s goals and our family’s goals, that they will almost be impossible not to meet if we are all on the same page and check in with each other.  Planning and dreaming for something without the support of those WHO LIVE WITH YOU and SEE YOU EVERY DAY seems hard, no?

PicMonkey CollageWho is that girl on the left?  And who let her wear red pants??

1. Lose 10-15 pounds

For those of you who have been following me for awhile or know anything about me, you know I’ve already conquered the “get to the gym” part of the fitness journey.  My husband and I do CrossFit 5-6 times per week, so working out isn’t the issue.  We eat really well 85-90% of the time, but over the summer we let the pounds creep on.  Apparently beer and pizza on the weekends make you gain a little weight?  Who knew.

We work HARD at the gym and put in a lot of time and I’m tired of playing the maintenance game.  I don’t want to go to the gym to attempt to counteract the effects of my weekend food choices.  I want to make good food choices AND train hard.

Now honestly, I’m okay with my weight.  I am.  I work hard and know I don’t have a giant mountain to climb.  But I also know that as hard as I work, things could be better.  Our goal for January is to just clean things up and get ourselves back on track.  And when I say clean things up, I basically mean stop ordering pizza.  Because when there is pizza in the house, I eat it all until it’s gone.  And pizza is not good for the waist line or my endurance at the gym.

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I’m also playing around with eating for performance (ie when to eat certain carbs, when I need the most protein), but right now the main focus is to just stop eating pizza.  And stop making cookies.

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2015_new_year

First of all, let me talk about all the things I had planned for the blog at the start of 2015 and here it is JANUARY 6TH and all I’ve managed to do is get the nasty infectious disease that is roaming around the planet.  I’ve spent the last 7 days laying in bed, eating Top Ramen, eating chocolate chip cookies, then more Top Ramen, getting out of bed to pretend to do a load of laundry, climbing back into bed to lie there forevermore, scaring people off with my porn star voice, hacking up what sounds like gravel, watching Friends on Netflix (only 252 episodes to go!) and eating more Top Ramen.  New Year’s Eve was spent drowning my sorrows in a glass half a bottle of champagne by myself, with unwashed hair and 4-day old sweats.

The blog?  Oh dear sweet heaven above, I could barely formulate my own name, let alone write a blog post.  Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I was sad to not have the fresh start I had been imagining, but then I ate more Top Ramen and went back to bed and forgot I had a blog.

Now that the smoke is clearing and the kids are back in school and I can sortakindamaybe remember what day of the week it is, let’s kick off 2015 January 6th style!

Here’s the scoop.

Over the last year or two, I have been really pulled to get back to my blogging “roots”.  When I first started writing back in 2010 (what the what?), I really enjoyed mixing up personal experiences and reviews, goal-setting, budgeting trials and tribulations, weight loss successes and setbacks and parenting hilarity with grocery, drugstore and online shopping deals.

Since I was such a crazy new blogger, my inbox consisted of an email from my Mom and one from my husband giving me a virtual high five for figuring out how to actually start a blog.  Now that this site has gotten bigger, my inbox is absolutely EXPLODING OUT THE BACK END with emails and deals and advertising pitches and lions and tigers and bears.  There is never in my life a shortage of deals to share with you and I feel guilty if I don’t share the best ones with you, which leads to me getting bogged down in a deal tornado AND not finding (or making) time to share the fun stuff.

Don’t get me wrong.  I want to share deals.  I do.  But I want to share them mixed in with great stories and the ridonkulous things my kids do before they get too old and embarrassed by their dear old Mom sharing their poop shenanigans on the interwebs.  I want to talk about my goals.  Because they probably line up closely with your goals.

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Are you trying to lose weight/join a gym/start running/train for something?

Is your grocery/EVERYTHING budget just outrageously out of control and you feel guilty buying a pack of gum because I SHOULDN’T BE USING THE CREDIT CARD?

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Do you feel like a failure at most things parenting?  Do you forget your head and lose it and everyone ends up sitting around watching Rescue Bots for hours because you can’t seem to manage one more toddler tantrum?

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Are you attempting to cook homestyle meals that are ginormously vegetable based but still delicious so your whole family will fall all over you and your vegetable cooking prowess?

Me too, friends.  Me too.

These kinds of posts tend to take more time and brain power, which lines up with one of my goals for the year of being more efficient and effective with my time.  Staying up too late and dividing my brain between blogging and Netflix does not a good blog post make.  I’m saying hello to editorial calendars and good time management.

I’m outrageously excited to start sharing awesome things with you again.  Let’s talk about budgeting and eating and parenting #fails and organization and eating and life goals and parenting awesome and groceries and shopping and crazy.

Hooray for clean slates and new years!

Please share with me!  What is on the docket for you or your family this year?  I’d love to hear your goals and biggest challenges so I can wrap them all up with what I post.

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Capital One 360 is running an AMAZING Black Friday sale on their 360 Savings and Checking Accounts. If you have been waiting to sign up, do not miss out on this sale as it only comes around maybe twice per year.  We have been using Capital One 360 for several years to hold our miscellaneous savings and our Emergency Fund for, you know, emergencies. Their online platform is really easy to use THE 360 Savings Account is semi-fluid, meaning you can access your money in 2-3 business days instead of it being available to pull out at any time. We were able to quickly link our checking account to transfer money back and forth.

My favorite part about the 360 Savings Account is that you can set up several sub-accounts under your main account. For example, we have accounts for both kids, car insurance that we pay on a bi-yearly basis, preschool and more. This helps keep our money separate without having to open multiple accounts.

Here’s the scoop on the sale:

Open a brand-new, no fee 360 Savings Account between 11/28/14 and 12/1/14 with a minimum $1,000 deposit and a $100 bonus will be added to your account. Your bonus will start earning interest on day 1, but will not be available to withdraw it until day 30.


They are also running a great sale on the 360 Checking Account. We took advantage of this bonus promotion a few years ago and it was super simple. This is a very easy way to add a little extra money to your pockets this holiday season!

Open a 360 Checking Account, make a total of 5 purchases within the first 45 days and Capital One 360 will automatically deposit $100 into your account.

  • Open a 360 Checking account between 11/28/14 and 12/1/14 with a minimum deposit of $250
  • Make a total of 5 signature or pin-based purchases using your 360 Checking debit card or Checkmate deposits in the first 45 days
  • On day 50, $100 will automatically be deposited in your account. This bonus is only available for new 360 Checking Account holders.

Click here to open a 360 Savings Account or here to open a 360 Checking Account.

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Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are supporting this blog. Thanks!

Mark and Lauren G

This post is part of the New American Dream Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with hundreds of inspiring bloggers. Click here to learn more and join us!

So I learned about this blog tour for the launch of Mark and Lauren’s new website and I went back and forth on posting.  I find myself with approximately 7.5 free seconds every day and maybe 17 minutes to sit down and work on the blog, so adding one more thing to my plate right now sounded about as awesome as trying to lasso a unicorn with a rainbow.  But then I started digging in to their site and it’s such a great fit for my readership that the opportunity was hard to pass up.

What Mark and Lauren offer:

  • A Husband/Wife Perspective to Money Management
  • Frugal Living and Personal Finance Help
  • First-Hand Debt Reduction and Budgeting Knowledge
  • Ways to Jumpstart and Live Your New American Dream. We’re living proof it works!

My husband and I are all about budgeting and saving money and trying to be frugal and sacrificing today for the betterment of tomorrow, but we have gotten a little off track over the last few years.  While we know exactly what it takes to rein ourselves back in, it’s making the tough choices and getting passionate about our financial future that is going to be the difference for us.  I have loved reading through their blog posts and listening to their podcasts, just to get our family excited about being on our feet again financially.

While we have a fantastic written budget and stick very close to it each month, what we have struggled with over the last few years is deciding what is worth spending money on and what is worth sacrificing.  Finding a balance between the two is a huge challenge.  We have gone the almost-complete sacrifice route, where we rarely did anything outside the home, rarely went on any sort of vacation, didn’t make any major upgrades to our home, ate a very minimalistic diet.  While we do both agree that this was a great way to stay on budget and keep costs down, we struggled as a family.  Our money was in the right place, but our hearts were heavy.  Saying no to each other all the time was very exhausting.  Now that our kids are getting a little older, we’ve had to make some decisions about our money that have been less financially-savvy, but have helped our marriage and our sanity and our parenting.

So again, where is the balance?  What have we decided to spend money on that we would have said no to before?

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Vacations

We don’t necessarily take these two-week long, international trips together or with our kids, but we have said yes to major league baseball games and Disneyland and the beach.  We have said yes to Las Vegas on countless occasions because sometimes Mom and Dad need a quick getaway from real life (in every sense of the word).  While these are not things we NEED and could easily do without, getting away by ourselves or as a family gives us a chance to unwind, reconnect and share experiences that we just can’t get at home.

A New Truck

We definitely could have muddled through with the old one, but it was starting to need some major repairs.  We couldn’t haul the boys in it, so we could never take it anywhere as a family.  We had to borrow a truck from a friend to get our whole family to the Christmas tree farm!  Buying a new-to-us truck has given us peace of mind and the ability to do more as a family.  It has also given us the opportunity to help friends in need when they move or buy large amounts of anything for their homes.

#TheNewAmericanDream

CrossFit

This could be anything for you.  Yoga, running a marathon, biking.  For our family, it is CrossFit.  And it ain’t cheap.  I often get asked how we can afford it and my answer is simple: We can’t afford NOT to.  Both my husband and I have found something we love that keeps us in fantastic shape and keeps us motivated and wanting to go back.  There’s no dragging our feet to the gym or doing something because we feel like we have to, we honestly love it.  Working out keeps us mindful of what we eat, which in turn keeps us far healthier than we were back in our couch potato days.  Healthier eating and lifestyle = fewer doctor visits.  It’s a fabulous cycle.

On top of all the health benefits, it is also the place I go to maintain my sanity.  I get an hour or so to myself, the kids hang out and watch a movie and I feel boundlessly better afterwards.  We have made some wonderful friends, so I get to call it social hour in the midst of my long child-rearing/blogging/carpooling/cooking/cleaning days.

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A Healthier Diet

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Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are supporting this blog. Thanks!

We bought a cow! (well, half)

July 3, 2014

My husband and I have talked for years about buying a quarter or half of a cow from a local farmer and stocking our freezer with meat, but just have yet to find time to make it a priority. Talking with a friend at the gym recently, she was telling me about a guy she […]

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Capital One 360: Earn $100 bonus with new checking account or $76 for new online savings account (easy sign-up!)

June 30, 2014

Capital One 360 is running an AMAZING Independence Day sale on their savings and checking accounts. If you have been waiting to sign up, do not miss out on this sale as it only comes around maybe twice per year. We have been using Capital One 360 for several years to hold our miscellaneous savings […]

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How to split items at Costco with a friend to save money

February 24, 2014

Some time ago, my good friend Jessie and I started meeting at Costco to split some items each month.  You know Jessie as our recipe contributor from Bites.  I can’t even remember now whose idea it was but I’m going to give Jessie all the credit because she’s usually the brilliant one in our friendship. That girl […]

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Free preparation, printing and filing of 2013 taxes from Turbo Tax + personal review

February 6, 2014

If you are starting to think about your 2013 taxes, Turbo Tax can help you with FREE preparation, FREE printing, and FREE E-filing for your simple tax return. This is just for a simple tax return but they guarantee that you will easily get your biggest refund possible so it’s worth trying out. They also […]

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Free preparation, printing and filing of 2013 taxes from Turbo Tax

January 31, 2014

If you are starting to think about your 2013 taxes Turbo Tax can help you with FREE preparation, FREE printing, and FREE efiling for your simple tax return. This is just for a simple tax return but they guarantee that you will easily get your biggest refund possible so it’s worth trying out. They also have […]

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FREE download of Dave Ramsey’s Guide to Budgeting

January 20, 2014

You can currently download a FREE Guide to Budgeting from Dave Ramsey. I just downloaded it and it looks like a perfect summary of the Dave Ramsey advice. Dave’s advice has been priceless for our family and has literally changed our lives, marriage and financial future. We can’t say enough good things about it! The […]

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What to expect from This Beautiful Frugal Life in 2014

January 6, 2014

I LOVE the idea of a clean slate with each new year.  A fresh start.  I love the idea of evaluating the previous year, looking at what has worked for our family, what definitely didn’t work, what we’d like to try, how we’d like to spread our wings.  While December feels like a time to […]

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New 2014 Savings Tracker download from The Coupon Project (invaluable budgeting tool!)

December 31, 2013

I am SO thrilled to tell you that Angela over at The Coupon Project has released her 2014 Savings Tracker! I have used this for three years now and it is an invaluable resource.  It is such a simple tool to help keep track of your monthly budget, but it is amazing to see your […]

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Capital One 360: Earn up to $125 bonus cash with new checking or savings account (highest bonus of the year!)

November 29, 2013

Capital One 360 is running an AMAZING Black Friday sale on their savings and checking accounts. If you have been waiting to sign up, do not miss out on this sale as it only comes around maybe twice per year. We have been using Capital One 360 for several years to hold our miscellaneous savings […]

Read the full article →

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