Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September Wrap Up & October Goals

September went pretty well over all. Bare with me as this first wrap up is pretty long. I plan to compare the most recent month to the previous month. August we were trying to follow a budget but not as strictly as September. I will continue to compare months but will not make major changes in budget until the New Year as I will have a chance to look back and see where significant changes can or should be made.

To clarify something, I get paid twice per month and hubby get’s paid every two weeks. This means twice a year hubby get’s paid three times in a month. Assets do not include our condo but our short term CD (which makes up our long term emergency fund right now), 401(k)’s and eTrade account.

August Employer Income (EI) – $4,970.86 (high due to hubby extra check)

September Employer Income (EI) - $4,017.31 (as normal)

August Other Income (OI) - $0

September Other Income (OI) - $50 (surveys, put in short term savings)

August Assets - $13,791.83

September Assets - $13,583.31 (decrease of 1%)

October Goals - maintain EI and increase OI by 4% to $125 and Assets by 3% to $13990.80

I will keep our food budget in place for now but will take more advantage of sales and coupons to extend our buying power. I also plan on making larger crock pot meals on Sundays to eat and freeze. If I can get good deals on organic items I will buy them but it’s about overall cost for me right now. Transitioning to all organic will take time and only be achievable when our debt is paid off. I need to incorporate more fruits/veggies, increase water intake and exercise.

August Groceries – $572.91 - 143% of budget

September Groceries - $496.00 - 124% of budget

October Goal - $400

Fun money is broken out in to several categories. Hubby and I definitely have weaknesses but are proud of how well we did. The bullet points below do not sum up the entire fun money spending for the month but the categories we are vigilantly tracking.

August Fun Money - $895.01 – 18% of employer income (no goal and we were on vacation)

Eating Out $335.11 (37% of fun money)

Coffee $168.63 (18% of fun money)

Entertainment $156.97 (18% of fun money)

Crafts $90.92 (10% of fun money)

September Fun Money – $332.33 - 8% of employer income (goal 7%)

Eating Out $51.86 (16% of fun money)

Coffee $104.25 (32% of fun money)

Entertainment $26.49 (8% of fun money)

Crafts $45.27 (14% of fun money)

October Goal – 7%

We only had planned one meal out this month and had budgeted $30. In actuality we spent just under $23. Hubby and I have found that if we order one drink per person (or just drink water) and share a large appetizer or entree that is enough for us to enjoy going out. We did use a coupon to order pizza once as well. This also served as a couple meals but this did put us over budget. I think eating out once a month is acceptable compared to what we used to do.

We only bought two DVD’s and they were $5 each. I am utilizing the library which is no cost and we are really using our Netflix account much more.

We plan on limiting our Starbucks coffee spending to Sunday morning only. This was the highest tracked expense in the fun money budget this month.

We are trying our best to make holiday decorations as opposed to buying them and budget for bigger items we can’t easily reproduce. We bought a few things craft wise to create some Halloween decorations and a dog bed for BJ. We utilized our credit card minimally here.

As far as debt repayment goes. I did make a change there. I reduced paying out to debt (minimum payments plus extra) from $1200 to $1000 until the end of the year so we can have Christmas money. I do round up my payments to the nearest dollar most of the time.

August Loans – $730 - 100% of budget

September Loans - $723 – 100% of budget

August Credit Cards – $142.94 - 100% of budget

September Credit Cards - $228.49 – 100% of budget

August Extra Debt – 0% (vacation did not allow much extra)

September Extra Debt – 0$ (revamped budget to pay extra at the beginning of the month)

August Total Debt Balance - $37,861.68 – ($9,191.70 cc’s & $28,669.98 loan’s)

September Total Debt Balance - $37,350.62 – ($9,157.52 cc’s & $28,193.10 loan’s)

October Goals – Loans $723, Credit Cards $201 & Extra Debt $150 Total $1074

October Total Debt Balance Goal $37,350.62 (not including interest)

I also revamped our savings and broke out our emergency savings in to short term (car repair or unexpected expense) and long term (six months living expenses).

August Short Term Emergency Fund (STEF) – 0% (goal $3,000)

September Short Term Emergency Fund (STEF) – 3% (goal $3,000)

August Long Term Emergency Fund (LTEF) – 0% (goal $10,000)

September Long Term Emergency Fund (LTEF) – 10% (goal $10,000)

August Vacation Fund (VF) – 0% (goal $5,000)

September Vacation Fund (VF) – 0% (goal $5,000)

October goals: STEF $125 ($75 towards HOA assessment for parking lot), LTEF - $0 and VF - $0

All in all I learned a lot about our spending habits and how we surprised ourselves living without things we would usually not think twice about buying. I am trying not to obsess about the budget and our debt and live while we are paying things down. I do know I need to focus more on alternative streams of income.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Bed for BJ

I love old suitcases. I have a few from my grandmother and hubby turned a couple in to stools. I had this other one I really loved but it was sitting in our storage unit taking up space. I discovered the pillow our dog sleeps on would fit perfectly inside.

I ripped out the old lining and sprayed down the suitcase. I purchased two croquet mallets at one of my favorite stores, cut them in half and screwed them to the bottom for legs. I bought two brown leather belts at the thrift store that I will cut to go around the legs. The left over belt I might use for the handle as you can see in the photo the old one is pretty used.

For the lining I covered some quarter inch foam core board for the top and bottom and some poster board to line the lid and bottom. I hot glued the liner in to place first which made the top and bottom insert fit perfectly snug. All I had to do was add BJ's pillow.

And BJ of course.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Library List

Found this post over here and thought I would repost. This week is Banned Book Week!
According to the American Library Association:

BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met
The following are some of the most banned books in the U.S. I urge everyone, in honor of banned book week, to post this list on your blog, and mark the ones you have read in bold! Then go out and read one of the other books on the list. Never take your freedom for granted.

A caveat here. I did bold the ones I have read and italicized the ones I have seen movie versions of but would still like to actually read. I was pretty surprised that out of the list of 100 I had only read 8 (many of which were by Judy Blume) and I had seen film versions of 7.

I had always thought of myself as a well read individual but now I'm not so certain. I am going to put a few of these on my library list right now.

  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Found this really fun link for wordle at my messy thrilling life. Here's my wordle for autumn. Click on it to take you to the wordle site and you can see a bigger version. Wouldn't this idea make a GREAT scrapbook page?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Garden Update

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am looking for ideas for a couple planting beds at my condo complex. There is a courtyard near my office that has a wonderful dry creek bed look with evergreen plants. Its really peaceful and seems to be pretty low maintenance. It's got a really "Northwest" look to it too.

One of the beds is oval and large enough to accommodate the dry creek bed, a low ground cover, grasses, ferns and pachysandra which already exists on the property in the "moat".

I think we could add some other flowering plants to have some color spring through fall like this pink Aubrieta below.

I think if I try to incorporate this look with some flowering rock loving flowers and plants with some color or pattern to the leaves like hosta or coleus then I think it would be a success.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fall Gardening

I have a dilemma. I told the president of our condo association I would get some plants in the ground on our property. I'm not a complete black thumb at gardening. My personal gardening philosophy is buy stuff I like for the environment I am planting (sun vs shade), stick it in the ground and see how it goes. If it flounders, move it somewhere where it thrives. I've been successful with this so far.

The area I need to plant is sort of weird. It's a bed about 1 1/2 feet deep by 12 feet wide. I and other homeowners would like a mixture of evergreen so it's not completely bare in the winter with great color so spring through fall is a treat to walk by and look at every day. I still don't think it too late to plant some spring bulbs. We might even get some use from mums at this late date.

The area in question sits under an oak tree and get's dappled sunlight. It get's its share of full on sun and shade and faces east.

Do any of you out there have suggestions on what I could plant? I love dahlias but am not certain if they would do well there and I would have to wait until the spring anyway. Plants that have done well there are daffodils and primroses. That is all that has been planted there by others so far.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Thought North Carolina Was The Tar Heel State?

Yesterday hubby and I came home to a freshly paved parking lot at our condo complex. We knew it was going to happen and took our extra car to my parents house. What we didn't expect was NOT TO BE ABLE TO GET TO OUR FRONT DOOR!

Our overflow parking lot was not paved for the simple reason one homeowner was out of town and his car was parked there. The parking is set up that they paved right up to the fences that seperate the parking lot from the moat of plants in front of buildings. There are walkways from the pavement over the moats to get to front doors. However, no way from the overflow lot to the walkways.

Hubby and I gingerly picked our way through the parking lot trying to stick to what looked like dry areas. We couldn't help notice others footprints in the black tar as we went. We both slipped a couple of times but neither of us fell thank goodness.

I have emailed the property manager to see about reimbursement for our shoes. Naturally hubby and I were wearing our most expnsive pair each. Typically we are a Converse sort of couple but yesterday hubby was wearing his dress shoes and I was wearing my Uggs.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fun, Games & Chocolate

For those of you who love Halloween and Chocolate here is a link to a fun game to play. I have found 38 of the 50 movie titles. The cool thing is you can save your game under your email address and go back to it later. I started this game a couple years ago and forgot about it until hubby reminded me of it last night when he was telling our neighbor.

Maybe we can all help each other out with ones we can't figure out. I'll start by giving a clue to one of the harder ones I finally figured out.

Bottom right corner there is a guy sitting down with baskets over his head and feet. This film came out in 2006 with Nicholas Cage and is a remake of a movie from the 70's.

Some of the ones I am stuck on are: bottom left corner (fish in the water), bottom center (three kids holding hands in a circle), bottom center (woman with either two kids or a kid and a monkey), top center (both planets and the mountain), center (two guys standing back to back on the stairs). I think I know the one with the blue m&m but I can't click on it for some reason.

If anyone is willing to give clues if they have successfully figured the ones above out that would be awesome!

Happy hunting!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's Raining

It's raining here in Seattle. Funny though cause I'm kinda in the mood for rain. I went to the fabric store this morning to get some fabric for a craft project I am working on. When it's finished I will post but I will give you a hint - it involves an old suitcase.

For your Halloween enjoyment go check out my friends new blog.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Good Things Do Happen

After my post last night I was a little bummed as far as facing a weekend with no dough and even though we have food it's slim pickings for a decent healthy meal. Hubby and I were getting used to getting paid every other Friday with the way my checks were falling.

Would you believe it? Just when I was most desperate and thinking about charging $20 worth of groceries to get us through the weekend (and paying it back right away Monday). I got my first ever Vindale Research check in the mail today for doing online surveys! That's $50 I can deposit tomorrow and use a little buy groceries to last until Monday.

That check is really earmarked for debt reduction and it will be used that way after I get paid.

Yeehaw! I feel rich. Not lottery rich, but rich.

Doin the happy dance!!!!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Money on my Mind

Hubby and I have exactly $12.26 in our checking account until I get paid on Monday morning. We have food, we have gas, bills have been paid. It's just depressing.

This is my first month with a really strict budget and some pretty aggressive debt repayments. Our minimum payments for all of our consumer debt total $756. We have essentially doubled that to get out of debt as fast as possible. That leaves little money left over for food, gas and fun.

I have come to the realization that eating organic is not that easy on $100 for four people for a week. Granted two of those people (my hubby's kids) don't live with us during the week. So, we will have to rely on Costco and Fred Meyer (a local grocery store I don't particularly care for but has good prices) to get us through the week on our food budget.

There have been some positives though.

1) I have not given any of my money to Starbucks this week with the exception of my Sunday morning treat when I going walking with my friend. For those of you who know me IRL you know I love my Starbucks in the morning.

2) Hubby and I have been packing our lunches the night before and bringing them to work.

3) Hubby and I have not gone out to eat this entire month.

4) I went online to the library website and placed books on hold. Tonight I picked up eight books on the way home from work. That was really huge for me cause I love my books. They are my friends.

This weekend we plan to get some unfinished projects around the house completed and go to a neighbors for dinner. We might even start getting out the Halloween decorations.

It's hard looking at how far we have to go in regards to our debt. I want to have some fun along the way too.

Here's to a great weekend. My hope is to be resourceful and have a good time even if we don't have any money to spend.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Library

I am a certified bibliophile. Libraries are one of my favorite places on earth. I have always wanted a personal library in my home. Two stories with a wooden wheeled ladder, cozy chairs and a fireplace. The closest I have come is a wall of bookshelves in my hallway. One day though, even if it's just a corner of a cozy room, I will have a library.

As a younger person who had no money of my own I would spend hours at the local library reading and browsing. When I was able to earn my own money I spent quite a bit of it on books. They were crammed in the shelves of my bedroom and stacked on the floor. It drove my mom nuts!

Because so much of our current income is going towards paying down our consumer debt, I have decided to check out books I want to read instead of purchasing them. The wonderful thing about present day and the internet is I can go online with my local library system and place a hold on them right from my very own computer and pick them up at the location of my chioice!

It's really hard for me not to purchase the books I am anxiously waiting to come out. Especially the books by authors I am collecting and read over and over again. Some favorite authors are Clive Cussler, Cleo Coyle, Madelyn Alt, Agatha Christie and more.

I don't know if I have a favorite book. What's your favorite book or author?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fun Money - Fun Day

My husband and I have decided to use only 7% of the money that comes in from paychecks for "fun money". Things like eating out, coffee, clothing, buying anything for ourselves are all included. This has really made us stop and look at where our money is going and we have realized we don't like to be limited to 7%. Probably part of our consumer debt problem. It's our reality for the moment unfortunately. In order for us to have more fun money we really need to get our debt paid off.

The next couple months until the end of the year we have additional bills like tabs for both our cars (annual), life insurance (quarterly), an assessment to repave the parking lot at our condo and a dental bill I paid off this month. These items kind of cut in to money we would have had available either for additional debt reduction or basics like food and gas. There is also Christmas to consider too.

These restrictions I think will force hubby and I to really think when we want to spend money. Not only that but we have spent our food budget for the week at the grocery store and we will really need to eat what we have. We have been doing pretty good at that lately though. We went grocery shopping at PCC which is a little more expensive but goes along with our organic eating plan. A few items purchased today will last us a long time like steak rub and tahini garlic sauce (yummy for dipping veggies in).

Today hubby and I decided to go have some fun. We took $40 out in cash and new we had $75 worth of fun money to spend. We got a lot of bang for our buck though.

$2 - two CD's at an estate sale (Midnight Oil and Audioslave) both on our to buy list
$4 - marble and glass cheese cloche (on my list for kitchen and Halloween - more on that later)
$7.62 - Liz Claiborne green faux alligator handbag
$12.92 - stocking stuffers for the kids (never to early to prepare for Christmas) and fake spiders (for Halloween decorating)
$4.34 - spider web "stuff" (also for Halloween decorating) and a movie trivia board game
$8.71 - chair (technically not fun money)
Total cash $39.59

$11.88 - clip on devil horns (my Halloween costume), a haunted doorbell and a fabric mardi gras mask (an idea I have for Christmas ornaments)
$5.04 - Tully's (had a 50% off coupon for my drink)
Total $16.92

Grand Total $56.51

I have been wanting to get a more comfortable chair for our computer area. I can literally spend hours at the computer and after a while my hard wooden dining chair just doesn't cut it even sitting on a pillow. The chair we bought today is fine the way it is (it had a mate but hubby didn't want to get it) until I can take it apart, add more padding to the seat, recover it, sand the legs and stain. I may make a padded cover for the back as well. Technically this is a home improvement not fun money but we don't have a home improvement "account" at the moment.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Organic Eating

Last winter hubby and I tried to eat Organic because of a book I had read. It was pretty expensive and we bought mostly organic prepackaged foods. Yesterday we had a nutritionist come to our office for part of a healty habits initiative our company is sponsoring. I found out so much great information that I plan to include in our daily meals and move us to an organic way of eating. This time though - more fresh options and less prepackged foods.

Last night for dinner we had grass fed beef (which I had bought at PCC before we had the nutritionist come in) and it was really good! Hardly any fat at all and a wonderfull taste. We also had sweet potato fries that did not come from a prepared bag. So easy to make we are certain to have these over the weekend when the kids are down.

My substitutions were as follows...

Nutmeg (1 tbsp) for pumpkin pie spice
Cayenne (1/2 tbsp) for chilli seasoning
Olive oil (1 tbsp) for canola oil
I didn't have any aluminum foil so I put a little butter on the pan so my sweet potatoes would not stick.

Hubby got paid today, I have paid all of our bils, and now I get to go to PCC this weekend for some grocery shopping. I try to stick to a $100 a week food budget and that usually means shopping a couple times a week to buy food we need to last us for a couple days. This is working out pretty well so far.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Moment of Silence

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Year Update

My "new year" so far seems to be going pretty well in two of the three focus areas (finances, spirit & health).

In the world of finance hubby and I are sticking to our budget in areas we normally go over. In the past Starbucks coffee and eating out have been our downfall. We are making our coffee and bringing it to work and the eating out thing went well last weekend - we just didn't. We are a little over in the fun money department due to a miscalculation. Focusing on these areas is a bit new for us so there is bound to be a few bumps in the road. As soon as hubby get's paid Friday the fun money account will be replenished. We are kicking but in the debt repayment department though. I will give a full update at the end of the month.

As I have alluded to in the past and don't normally talk about, my hubby and I are not speaking to my in laws. This is due to my MIL and her serious NPD problem. Hubby and I have been seeing a therapist to assit with the issues we have with her. She had finally agreed to go see him at the beginning of July but had not called him at all. Last night at our appointment I about fell out of my chair when our therapist told us my MIL had indeed called him and they were playing phone tag. I truly hope we can reconcile but I am somewhat guarded as normally people like her don't think they have a problem. This may seem a little extreme but believe me, if you had been through what I have been through you would understand.

In an effort to eat better and lose a few pounds I am following a "whole foods" diet. My goal is to have protein, veggies/fruit, fiber and a small amount of "good" fat in each meal. By shopping the perimeter of the store I feel I can stay away from processed foods as much as possible and when I feel the need for starches, limit them to a small side amount. I still enjoy my homemade iced coffee in the morning but am trying to get the majority of my fluids with water. Exercise has not been as much as I had intended. Tomorrow we plan to take the dog to the dog park and go walking. It's getting darker earlier so that limits the amount of time we have outside. There is always the elliptical trainer in my living room. Yesterday I even did 50 wall push ups!

Hope everyone is having a good day!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Credit Card Paid & Possible College Debt?

My paycheck hit my account Friday and I paid off one of my credit cards yesterday! It had a small balance but it still feels good to check it off my list. I also paid a dental bill which is another item to check off the debt list. Next month, I will have another credit card paid off. Current total percentage of debt to available credit (for credit cards) is 57%.

Recently I have been considering going back to school. This of course cannot happen until the debt is paid off. At the current rate we are paying credit down it will be roughly two years to be debt free. I will be 39 and my husband will be 40. We will still have a mortgage and will have moved to a house for reasons I have stated before that are unavoidable.

I want to start looking in to another secondary checking account (like ING Direct) where I can have a certain amount of money transferred every month to pay for non-monthly expenses like car tabs, life insurance, Christmas and other gifts, additional expenses that come up, etc. I would start this account in January of 09 and put roughly $100 in it every month. My goal for 2010 would be to include our car insurance so I can pay bi-annually instead of every month.

My current dilemma is because of my age and how close to the parenting finish line hubby and I will be when we are debt free (2 years for kid 1 and 3 to 4 years (depending on graduating early) for kid 2, I am considering quitting my full time job, getting a part time job and paying for full time school through a combination of student loans, grants and scholarships. Not certain how much of the last two I will be able to get but it's worth a try.

I am rationalizing that it would be better to jump in to school and finish as quickly as possible (I have no idea how much of my previous college credits will transfer) and get a job then to take one class a quarter for however many years and then get a job. I think that would take longer.

True I would then have debt again. This is the reality of my life though. I don't think I would feel like I was starting over because the new debt I would have is not high interest consumer debt. I am uncertain if my husband will work full time or do the same (he has expressed an interest recently in going back to school as well). However, my hope is that I would find a job quickly even if it meant relocating to an area of the country where the cost of living is not as high as the greater Seattle area. Then I would make aggressive repayments to eliminate the school debt as fast as possible.

I still want to try and make a go of a home business but in the event that does not work out I would like to actually enjoy a career in a field I am interested in instead of going to a job every day I don't particularly care for.

Any of you out there going back to school in the later years? How did you handle the expense, a family, a job etc?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Today I ventured out for a "me" morning. I went to my LYS (local Yarn Shop) to pick up a few more skeins of the Kureyon yarn I need to finish Lady E. They were out of the color I needed and will order some for me. I have to wait another week. Bummer cause I have already waited a week to get more (it's a budget thing).

Then I went to the Origins counter at Macy's for some new makeup. I needed it as I have not bought new in a long time and I budgeted for it. I pampered myself with a facial and let them do my makeup for me which was fun.

My Cougs play in a half hour. I went to the game last weekend and bad me never posted any photos. Maybe because I was so devastated they lost. Oh well.

Above is hubby and I. Not the most flattering photo of me so just concentrate on my cute hubby (he's the one with the goatie).

Here's a shot of the CMB (Cougar Marching Band) on the field at half time. I was a member when I was in college. Although I didn't play an instrument. I was in the color guard which sadly no longer exists.

There was a surprising amount of orange shirted Oaklahoma State fans in Seattle to play my WAZZU Cougs. Most of them sat just to the left of our Cougar Pride sign.

There was a Seahawks game the night before so between the end of that game and the next morning they had to spray the field with our logo. I think it's great WSU has started playing one game in Seattle every year. There are a lot of WSU alum who live on the west side of the mountains. This year Apple Cup is in Pullman and I would love to go.

Well, got to jump off, make myself my version of a Starbucks iced mocha and watch my Cougs hopefully beat Cal!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Camping Essentials

Inspired by Literal Dan's most recent post. I deemed it necessary to outline my own camping essentials necessary for a satisfying if not unconventional camping experience. A cross between ABFAB and the Griswold's.

Equipment - There are many views out there on just what type of a camping experience one can achieve based on the necessities you bring with you. Conventional wisdom entails either a tent, a camper (I prefer the aerodynamic silver Airstream) or a "rustic" cabin.

Traditionally my family camps in a tent. The full camping experience cannot be achieved without first getting to your campsite late in the day forcing you in to tent construction by flashlight. If said flashlight cannot be found, we have discovered car headlights work well. This complicated performance of acrobatics and application of brainpower inaugurates the camping affair. Everyone will remember your first few hours spent swearing at inanimate objects that just won't cooperate and vowing next time to leave earlier, take the day off or just go to a nice hotel on the beach.

Due to my advanced age (late thirties) and personal comfort requirements I insist on an air mattress for sleeping. Other campers who have completed the above steps and are relaxing by their bonfires always welcome the high pitched whine of your electric mini air compressor as you blow up your air mattress of choice. What's even better is when you wander over to their site and ask to borrow a hammer (to complete tent erection), because you always forget one. It's a really great way to make friends.

Once the tent and air mattresses are installed successfully proceed with bedding setup. Air mattresses are a superb "base" but not a full package until you have the following...

First is the requisite feather bed - a three inch think mattress pad filled with down. The feather bed is only enhanced by the 500 thread count 100 % Egyptian cotton designer label sheet fitted over it. The piece de resitance is your down filled sleeping bag of choice (good for up to 30 below). Pillows with the necessary "squishyness" to achieve optimal rest round out your comprehensive sleeping experience. Eye masks and earplugs are optional.

All of this pristine cottoney goodness of course becomes destroyed within minutes as our 16 pound dog sets up camp smack dab in the center of our bed. Good times.

Nourishment - For camping purists like my family a successful trip is not complete without a well rounded diet containing anything from, in order of importance, the fat, starch and protein groups of the food pyramid. Typical meals result in anything you can skewer on a stick and hold over an open flame or in the one cast iron pan saved for just such a purpose. We thrive on a diet of weenies and marshmallows, nary a vegetable in site. The convenience of high fructose corn syrup laden prepared drinks make it easy for our kids to not only have tons of energy for all those outdoor activities but also ensures you get your quiet time as they all collapse in a sugar coma later in the day. The adult beverages of choice usually consist of anything that tastes good with Vodka.

In more recent years I have attempted to increase the nutrition factor and have found that highly processed items are more durable and easier to store. Chips, donuts, assorted candy - all great sources of "energy" for that non stop weekend of fun. For those of you who shop the perimeter of the grocery store these are typically found in brightly colored cardboard boxes in the center aisles. Freeze dried foods are the ultimate in camping preparedness as they take up little room, you just add water and throw the containers away.

Entertainment - Being out in the middle of no where tends to bring out the poetic and reflective side of me. Campfire songs, board and card games are a great source of family entertainment. For those times when you just can't take too much more of your biological lineage you can resort to more adventurous athletic competitions such as archery, bear slapping and spelunking. Our domestic creed is no one goes to the hospital on our shift.

That being said little things like broken bones are easily remedied with splints from any local tree strapped to the afflicted appendage with the bungee cord that was used to hold your rain fly. Plants and mud are outstanding when applied to bites, stings and rashes which result when tromping in the woods or paddling in the lake. Who needs a first aid kit when nature always provides?

Clothing & Other Gear - Our typical camping trip is to a resort of sorts on a lake in northern Washington state. You don't have to walk far to find the amenities of a bathroom and hot shower. Typically I strive to be the height of fashion in my silk robe and pyjama set with matching maribou trimmed heeled slippers and sleeping mask. Accessorized by a Bloody Mary or Dirty Martini, knitting bag and iPod at the ready to ponder the long term effects of owning too much cashmere while sitting in a hazy perfume of Deep Woods Off.

My friend Vanessa (who actually owns an Airstream trailer) and I set ourselves up in our own girly tent, a framework of PVC pipe and panels of luxurious indian silk (so practical). Rugs and pillows for lounging and a chandelier full of candles make our camping oasis complete. Children are under strict rules not to penetrate the perimeter when we are in residence.

After a day of being manly in the woods and on the water our respective husbands clean up, put on their smoking jackets and light their cigars over a Scotch. Sometimes we allow them in the girly tent.

Hope you enjoyed this little work of fiction. Special thanks to Hubby for his editorial assistance (a nice way of saying thanks to a guy who sat on his ass and threw in a good word or two).

We really do go camping. I really do sleep on an air mattress and feather bed. We typically bring enough stuff to fill our Subaru Forester and a small Coleman trailer. I do actually eat and bring healthy stuff like veggies and hummus and lots of bottled water. I love lounging pyjamas but usually stick to Keens', my favorite flannel and tank tops. We would never consider a trip without our camping espresso maker and I do knit every chance I get. However, there is always time for a bloody mary or dirty martini!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Coffee & Weed

Those of you who know me IRL know that I am addicted to coffee. Not just any coffee - Starbucks coffee (good thing I live near Seattle). I literally can go there every morning (provided I have the funds) for my tall iced non fat no whip mocha. I wonder what my drink of choice says about me?

This morning hubby made coffee in the french press in preparation for our attempt at saving money by bringing our own coffee to work - the horror. He added some chocolate syrup and 2% milk (normally I prefer skim but whatever - when hubby is making coffee I am a happy camper) and we were on our way.

It was as close to the aforementioned Starbucks as I have ever gotten. When I arrived at work I took out a glass from the cabinet in the kitchen, added ice and poured my delicious mocha beverage over it. Pure ecstasy.

My non caffeine addicted supervisor does not understand my relationship with coffee (it's a religious thing for him and I can respect that) but he does understand the first sip of the day and waiting to hit me with anything until that has been achieved - god bless him! I do believe this will reduce the amount of my hard earned money Starbucks will receive every month. I will still go there occasionally - after all, they are my company's biggest customer. You might even say they are partially responsible for my livelihood, my condo, my car and yes my iced tall mocha habit.

Aside from the wonders of a caffeinated existence I have recently discovered Weeds. This show is so totally awesome and so cleverly written! I love the characters even though the show is set in a rather exclusive burb of LA. Hubby and I watched six episodes in a row last night. Our neighbor and friend can't wait for us to get current on episodes. I'm actually considering getting Showtime just so I can watch season four even though I am only halfway through season two.

For those of you who have not been enlightened, the basis of the show is the main character, a rather modern gal named Nancy Botwin played by Mary Louise Parker is a widow who needs to find a way to pay the mortgage. She chooses to sell cannabis as a way to support her family. Perfect really, she rakes it in while still being home for the kids after school. Nancy's accountant (played by Kevin Nealon) has a daily habit that keeps her in business during the early year of her venture which soon branches out (pardon the pun) to a grow operation. Her frenemy Celia Hodes (played by Elizabeth Perkins - love her!) is a damaged social climber with a conscious. Totally screwed up and determined to live vicariously through her daughter who defies and actually hates her.

This show is a total departure for me. I'm not pro pot or anything. I just think it's funny.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Crack Me Up!

I saw this bumper sticker a few weeks ago and wished I had my digital camera with me. Wouldn't you know this morning on the way to work I saw the same car and just happened to have the camera? I made hubby get right behind them at the red light so I could take a non-shaky photo of it.

Folk dancing is friendship set to music. Do you think they are friends?

For some reason this particluar gem just really cracks me up! I am always curious of those people who deem it necessary to plaster some version of their personality/beliefs/team spirit on the back of their car.

I have in the past resorted to my college team on my license plate and a small window sticker. But never have I stuck stickers on the PAINT of my car - the horror!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Where Did All The Yarn Go?

So last night I was knitting along on my Lady E and was getting down to the end of the skein of yarn I was working on. I started looking for another skein to tie on and discovered to my horror I have no more left.

This could be due to several things. I could be a loose knitter therefore taking up more yarn that is necessary to complete the amount of tiers in the instructions (I didn't do a swatch). Or I could have lost some skeins in my house (totally possible). In any event, I have ten more tiers to go (twenty rows) plus the end row of half triangles. I could stop now but really want to go those ten tiers. Plus, I really think after I put it out there in a poll I want to do the fringe.

This means I will need to wait until this weekend to buy more yarn. I was on such a roll! At least that gives me time to work on other things around the house while I am not knitting. This is agony!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

It's September 1 and my "New Year". Today is day one for so many things...

Health - Goals for September are...

*Lose ten pounds
*Get twenty minutes of exercise a day
*Drink at least six 8 oz. glasses of water a day
*Journal my points on the ww website religiously
*Take current photos and measurements

I weighed myself this morning and entered it in to weight watchers online system (up 1.8 from last week - bummer but not a surprise) along with my yummy point wise breakfast. I put together chicken chili and it's cooking in the crock pot as I type this. I got out some salmon to grill for dinner too. I plan on jumping on my elliptical for at least twenty minutes today as well.

Wealth - Goals for September are...

*Stay within the 5% fun money budget
*Stay within the food budget
*Try out the Walgreens 101 plan
*Keep doing surveys enough for another $50 check (or more)
*Start some online offers
*Pay additional $485 on the debt (focus is credit cards this month)

I spent some time yesterday going over the budget and making some adjustments. Today I finished revamping our budget spreadsheet and balanced the checkbook. I updated our net worth badge and debt graphs on the blog. I know what our fun money budget is for this week until I get paid Friday. I have done a couple surveys and plan on starting an online offer this week.

Spirit - Goals for September are...

*Do yoga once a week to settle myself
*Have "date night" with hubby to connect
*Work on my screenplay/book
*De clutter my bookmarked sites, documents and photos saved to the computer
*Work on knitting my Lady E
*Generate a list of ideas for Christmas gifts (hand crafted or not)
*Get my house decorated for fall
Research a class on html and writing

I have started to jot down what is rumbling around in my head for my screenplay/book. Plan to do some knitting while watching a favorite movie after I get off the computer.

My thoughts are with all who are affected by hurricane Gustav. Here's to a great month!