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March Goal Recap

Note- I apologize for the radio silence. We’ve had a nasty cold going around our house, and being the severely understaffed operation we are, I had to set aside blogging in favor of keeping germs at bay, diapers on LM’s butt, and food in everyone’s tummies.

Having goals helps us focus on our long-term goal of being free from debt, and gives us a sense of accomplishment normally reserved for paying off debts. We find it’s a great tool that helps keep us on track! Here’s a look at how we did with our March goals:

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  • Pay off $2000 of debt. We actually ended up paying off $1,707.36. I blame myself for this mix up, since my math last month was a leetle bit flawed. A more realistic goal would have been to pay off $1800 of debt, which I still fell a little short on.
  • Pay off Hubby’s truck. We officially paid off Hubby’s truck! It’s liberating to have the title for one vehicle in hand, and to have one less debt. We celebrated with juice boxes that we bought on sale with a coupon!
  • Deal with our maturing CD. Our CD matured, and we got $1,277 from it. We took $100 and used it to open a new CD at +4% interest. This was the minimum amount allowed to open a CD, and we’re continuing to contribute $100 each month to this account. $907 went to paying off the truck, and the remainder went to paying off our next highest interest debt, which is our Line of Credit. We’re pleased with how this all worked out!
  • Revise our debt payoff plan. We originally planned to continue putting $900 a month towards debts until we were 100% debt free, but we recently found out Hubby will most likely not be eligible for re-enlistment. Since we have no forseeable source of income after the Marines, we’re focusing on paying off any debt that is higher than what we can get in returns on aggressive savings (debts with interest rates above -4%), then continuing to make minimum payments on our lower interest debts while putting the remainder of the $900 we were putting towards debt into savings. We won’t have a huge safety buffer saved up with this plan, but we won’t have 6 monthly payments to keep up with, either. We took our credit cards and literally froze them in ice, so we can’t use them. We didn’t cancel them because that would affect our credit to debt ratio, which would hurt our credit scores, and I don’t want to cut them up until we have an emergency fund set aside, since (as much as I hate to say it) those cards are currently our emergency plan.
  • Review and adjust our retirement account. Since we’re young (21 and 22), we have our retirement funds entirely in stocks. Stocks are inherently riskier than bonds, but they have much higher returns. Remember, risk and return go hand in hand. We’re planning on shifting to a more conservative portfolio when Hubby turns 30, but for now we rebalance our TSP every 3 months or so to maximize our returns.
  • Have two yard sales. This did not happen. The first three weekends were very rainy, which is a garage sale killer here, and the last weekend we were very sick. I’m hoping to do this next month instead.
  • Discuss our job options post-military. We didn’t discuss job options, but we did discuss where we would go, so I’m counting this one as a win. We’ve decided to move based on Hubby’s choice of school, so it looks like we’re headed to Arizona.
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In Praise of the Maternity Support Girdle

Where have you been all my life?

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Or at least all my pregnancy?

You make my back not hurt, even when I carry a toddler.

You stop my belly from feeling like it’s going to drop off.

You may not look nice, your name might be off-putting, and you may kill my husband’s sex drive, but you are PERFECT. I’m not in pain, which has been the only constant this entire pregnancy besides vomit. I can stand up without moaning. I can live again.

If I was not already married to the man of my dreams, I would seriously consider marrying you.

I just wish you didn’t make peeing in maternity jeans so difficult.

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Frugal Friday- Soup, Selling, and Diapers

We’re devoted to keeping our finger on our frugal pulse. This is what we did last week to save a buck or two (or fifteen!)

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  • Yesterday Hubby, Little Man and I went out to eat at a local Mexican restaurant (Baby needed a cheese enchilada). I checked reviews on Yelp and happened to find a Yelp Deal for $30 worth of food for $15. Our total bill came to $32.xx, so we spent $21 on dinner and a tip for the three of us as opposed to the $38 we would have spent!
  • We continued using cloth diapers, washed in Tide purchased with double coupons at Target. We also continued using shampoo and conditioner bought on clearance with coupons.
  • I sold several curb finds and things we no longer use, including one of our three brooms, a wheeled stand, several diapers I bought expressly to resell, and a few shirts I don’t like the fit of. I made $65 this week!
  • We ate Dirt Cheap Soup, and will finish the leftovers of it tonight for dinner!
  • We made a trip to Costco for flour and applesauce, both of which are much cheaper to buy in bulk. We feasted upon their free samples, and didn’t need to eat lunch later that day!
  • I called our internet provider and got them to lower our rate just by asking! They dropped our rate to the current introductory rate, which is $20 lower than our current rate.
  • I cancelled our Citrus Lane subscription. I love Citrus Lane, but on our extreme savings budget I can’t justify the price anymore. Once we move and get settled down somewhere else with good jobs, I’ll start this back up again for sure!
  • We watched several movies we borrowed from the library, including Elysium (which I really didn’t like), Ender’s Game (which Hubby and I both loved), and Cowboys and Aliens (which was good). We returned them on time and didn’t incur any late fees!
  • I shipped a lot of motorcycle trophies I picked up off the curb and sold on eBay. Free money in my pocket! I would normally sell on Bookoo to avoid paying eBay’s fees, but some things are a little too specialized to go on Bookoo.
  • I bought two of my school books for May semester on eBay instead of from my college bookstore. After some extensive comparison shopping, I determined eBay had the best prices for those two particular books, and used my PayPal balance from selling on eBay and Cloth Diaper Trader to pay for the books. I still have more to buy, but my short book list is VERY expensive this semester, so I’m spreading it out over the next few paychecks to lessen the financial blow.

Did you do anything frugal this week?

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Dirt Cheap Soup

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The cheapest food you can get is food that you already have on hand. This goes hand in hand with being kind to Mother Earth, since reduced demand leads to less production, which reduces the amount of dangerous chemicals in the atmosphere. That being said, it can be tricky to use up the last bits of leftover vegetables, fresh produce that’s starting to wither, and other odds and ends.

Enter Dirt Cheap Soup. Every family has a variation of this, but it’s such a frugal staple that I feel like I should mention it again. You can make this meal feel less like a depressing, we’re-broke-and-need-cheap-eats meal by serving it with homemade bread (I love this recipe, and it’s also dirt cheap!) and butter. I’m also a fan of the set-it-and-leave-it cooking method, since it A) forces me to stay home all day, which reduces the amount of gas and wear & tear on my car, and B) makes dinner a no-brainer. Just chop some stuff in the morning, throw it in a pot, and dinner is served!

So here’s what you do.

  1. Get a big pot. I have a giant stock pot that was a hand-me-down from my Mom, who I believe bought it from a thrift store.
  2. Open your fridge and pull out everything from your produce drawers and all those leftovers. Any vegetables that are starting to look a little past their prime are excellent candidates for dirt cheap soup. So are leftover side vegetables, rice, beans, lentils, noodles, etc. Chop what needs to be chopped, and throw it all in the pot. Just a quick note- veggies that have one or two moldy spots can still be used! Just cut off the moldy spots, carefully examine the insides to make sure there aren’t hidden issues, peel and chop as needed, and use.
  3. Open up that pantry to fill out the soup. I personally have a lot of lentils in my pantry, so I added about a cup of them. For small dried beans, don’t worry about soaking, since simmering all day will cook them sufficiently. You could also add dried noodles, frozen noodles, rice, barley, etc.
  4. Add some water. I like to fill the pot to just below the vegetable level, since the veggies will cook down.
  5. Add some spices. If you like it spicy, make it spicy. The only real rule here is to not salt until the end, because some vegetables will release a lot of salt as they cook.
  6. When dinner is about 3 hours away, you can add some meat. Here’s my ultimate guide to adding meat without breaking the bank: use very, very little. I added this much chicken to the entire pot of soup.IMG_1774It’s one chicken breast, cooked and chopped up very, very tiny. The smaller you can chop it, the more meat it will seem like the soup has, and the more luxurious the whole meal will feel. Seriously, if you’re trying to save money, never serve a chunk of meat- chop it up and put it in veggie-based dishes.
  7. Scoop up some soup and serve it with your delish homemade bread and butter. I like to put a little cheese on top, which boosts the protein content and the yum factor! You can salvage slightly moldy cheese by chopping off the moldy parts and using the rest- cheese is essentially mold to begin with, so removing localized spots of it won’t hurt the rest.

Et voila! A cheap, delicious meal. I like to freeze half of the portion I made, just so we’re not eating the same thing for four or five days. If Brother-In-Law was here, however, I wouldn’t bother- that man is a leftover vacuum! Enjoy the sweet taste of savings.

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20 Chore Tuesday- Money Makes The World Go Around

I can’t believe it’s Tuesday again. It seems like it sneaks up on me really quickly every week. My goals for the day mostly involve money and research, since Hubby’s separation date is looming ever closer. I fully intend to pour myself a cup of coffee, put on some Brandi Carlile on Pandora (thank you, Mom, for introducing me to Ms. Carlile. Her voice makes chores more bearable.) and conquer some monetary housekeeping chores!

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  1. Mop the linoleum floors downstairs
  2. Vacuum the living room
  3. Put together our budgets for May, June, and July. I’m attempting to write out each month’s budget until November so I know about how much we’ll be able to save.
  4. Clean off the kitchen table. I’ve actually been really good about keeping this clear, since we’ve been playing Skip Bo every night, but there’s still some stuff accumulated.

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  1. I called our internet provider and asked for a lower rate. Our internet bill has been creeping higher and higher, and was sitting around $62 a month. I asked for an introductory rate, and got it lowered to $41 a month for six months. That’s $20 extra in our pocket each month! This will expire in September, at which point I’ll call again and ask for a similar lower rate for the remaining month we’ll be here.
  2. Listed 5 items on Bookoo. Everything I listed was clothing that I was holding on to in the hopes of fitting into it again someday, but I’ve realized that that’s pointless. My body is never going to be the same shape again, and the clothes are just taking up space and mocking me. Why shouldn’t they pay off some debt instead?
  3. I called our insurance company and verified that there wasn’t a problem with our payment, it just didn’t come out of our account yet because the payment date was on a weekend. I get worried when payments don’t post when they’re supposed to, so this is a load off my mind.
  4. Dinner is cooking on the stove. We’re having Dirt Cheap Soup, which essentially consists of putting any leftover vegetables or fresh veggies that are starting to go past their prime in a pot, simmering it for hours, and adding a shredded chicken breast and package of frozen egg noodles with about an hour left to go. It’s cheap, it’s filling, and it uses up vegetables that wouldn’t get used otherwise. Serve it with some homemade french bread, and you have yourself one frugal meal.
  5. I e-mailed PayPal about changing my name. I currently have my account set up with my nickname, and I need it changed to my legal name so that I can retrieve the money in my account. Hopefully this will be cleared up quickly, I have quite a chunk in there!
  6. I unclogged the sink. I don’t know what happened, but both halves were belching out nasty brown water. Instead of calling housing, which would have been a plumber if we weren’t in base housing, I took our kitchen plunger and some Drain-O and took care of it myself. Theoretically, I could have saved myself about $200!
  7. Little Man and I emptied the dishwasher. I’ll reload it later today, once we’ve accumulated enough dishes for a load.
  8. Fixed our Mint.com budget for March. I could not for the life of me figure out what went wrong this month, because my budget kept telling me we were going over, but my bank account said otherwise. I ended up figuring out it was the “Goals” feature that was the problem- I just deleted our goals, and put those accounts as budgets.
  9. I cleaned out the refrigerator and got rid of all the yucky old stuff. There wasn’t that much this week, partially thanks to tonight’s dinner of Dirt Cheap Soup.
  10. I finished one of my library books. I’ll return it tomorrow, and lessen the chances of running up late fees. I have to go to the post office to ship something I sold tomorrow, so it’s not like I’m making a special trip.
  11. I made a loaf of homemade bread to go with our Dirt Cheap Soup. Homemade bread makes everything seem a lot fancier.
  12. I cleaned the kitchen counters
  13. I cleaned up the stuff on the floor in the dining room
  14. I vacuumed the dining room (Little Man followed up with his singing vacuum)
  15. I did a load of dishes.
  16. I logged on to my college’s bookstore and found out what books I need for next semester. I had a minor heart attack when I saw how much money I was going to have to put into books this semester, and immediately started considering what I could sell to fund the small fortune’s worth of books I need.
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No Green Pancakes Here

This is how our morning started

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Why, yes, that is a pile of cast off shirts. You may have noticed neither of them are green. I changed Little Man’s shirt and my shirt after logging on to Facebook and seeing dozens of pictures posted by parenting pages of green pancakes, little leprechaun footprints, and hidden pots of gold. I did none of that, and not just because LM isn’t even two yet. Heck, the only reason we’re both wearing green is because we’re going out in public and I don’t want to get pinched.

I just don’t care. I love LM to the ends of the Earth and back, but seriously? Do we really need to celebrate every single holiday like it’s Christmas? We don’t do gifts, we don’t do treasure hunts, we don’t do anything. MAYBE when LM gets a little older we’ll have Lucky Charms for breakfast or something, but that’s it. One bowl of cereal and a green shirt.

I’m not trying to bash parents who do fix green pancakes and decorate their homes for every holiday, but let’s not make it the norm. All that does is make those of us who have a pile of cast off non-green shirts feel worse about ourselves and our perceived lack of holiday parenting. It also encourages your kids to expect more! better! and bigger! every year and for every holiday. I can’t even fathom how much worse it’ll get after LM goes into school. Can we collectively agree to take it down several notches?

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Good News, Everyone!

If you read that in Professor Farnsworth’s voice, we should be friends.

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Anyways, the good news! I e-mailed my Aunt, who holds my student loan, and told her about our forays into paying off all of our debt ASAP.She isn’t currently charging us any interest on the $9,000 flight loan, which is fantastic as is, but she offered to let us postpone any more loan payments until we’ve payed off all our high interest (more than 4%) debt first. This means an extra $100 each month to put towards our interest bearing debts, which means we’ll be out of high interest debt a month sooner than planned! This may not sound like a lot, especially considering the last debt we’ll pay off currently has a 0% introductory interest rate, so we won’t actually save any money. However, we will now be out of high interest debt one day before Hubby separates from the Marine Corps!! That means less headaches, less money for us to pay each month to other people, and more of a chance for us to save some money if we can continue paying off an extra EXTRA $100 each month with my unbudgeted income.

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This Is How I Coupon

I just wanted to share my last two grocery shopping trips with you. Both of these trips used coupons, and these pictures don’t include anything I bought with WIC checks.

First, the Commissary and Dollar Tree.

Retail (the price I would have paid with no coupons): $32.59.

OOP (Out of pocket price): $23.84.

That’s a savings of $8.75. All of these items are things we’ll use or eat (the hot dogs were for my husband’s platoon).

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Next up is Target.

Retail: $88.43

OOP: $56.16

Total Saved: $32.27!

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 Again, everything is stuff we’ll use or eat. The mini toothpaste and the two boxes of pens will go in shoeboxes we pack each October for children who would not otherwise get Christmas gifts. Check that out here!

Yes, there is a lot of shampoo in these pictures, but thanks to pregnancy #2, I’ve been having to take a shower every night instead of every other night like I used to. Hubby and I use the same shampoo, and we’ve been going through it a lot faster than normal, even though we water it down. I’m hoping this shampoo haul will last us until we move out, so I don’t have to buy more.

And yes, that is a pack of disposable diapers. We have to use them for nighttime, as we’ve never found a cloth diaper that will withstand a belly-sleeping, heavy wetting, directional peeing toddler while still fitting tight around the legs. We go through one pack a month, which I can usually buy with a Target coupon and Cartwheel.

The coffee and CoffeeMate are for Hubby at work. They have a system where a cup of coffee is $1, but if you bring in a bag of coffee or a container of creamer you get a week’s worth free. I can almost always find coffee for less than $5, so I generally supply the entire platoon with coffee in exchange for Hubby never having to pay for coffee. He also gets the contents of the coffee fund jar as extra take home pay for my frugal habits! The two bags of coffee pictured here were on clearance for $4.45 each, and Cartwheel knocked them down to $4.04 each. I then used a Target coupon for $1/2 to bring them down to $3.5x each, which is $3 savings on two weeks of coffee for Hubby. The creamers were $1.99 each (they were the cheapest flavor), and I used a manufacturer’s coupon and a Target coupon to take a total of $2.50 off of the two bottles. That’s $1.48 for two weeks worth of coffee, or a total four week savings of (ready for this? I was surprised) $11.52!

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Frugal Happenings- Date Night on the Cheap!

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I’ve been posting “frugal happenings” posts fairly randomly, but they deserve their own day. Keeping your finger on your frugal pulse helps keep your motivation up! Here’s what we did this week to save some money:

  • We’re going on a date tonight to take advantage of free child care being offered on base. We have from 6-9pm, and it’ll be good for Little Man to get to hang out with other kids! We’re planning on going to an Italian restaurant, which took the place of our regularly scheduled family dinner on Thursday (we usually go to the street fair for Thursday night dinner). We’ll drink water, and skip dessert. Considering child care usually costs $21-$36 for a similar time frame, I’m pleased with the savings.
  • I went grocery shopping with my coupons, and hit up multiple stores to maximize my savings. I got flour and applesauce at Costco (and you KNOW we went during lunchtime and sampled everything- free lunch!), bread at Trader Joe’s (It’s a little more expensive, but sooo much tastier that it’s worth it. Plus, TJ’s has free samples!), and coupon shopped at Target to take advantage of their stacking policy. Everything else came from the Commissary.
  • I made my own coffee every day this week, and added Coffee Mate creamer I bought with stacked coupons at Target. Cheaper than stopping, and I don’t have to wait for them to brew a new pot of decaf!
  • We ate at home every night this week, and emptied out our freezer quite a bit. My goal is to keep our freezer fairly empty for the next few months, so that we don’t end up with a full freezer come October and have to scramble to unload it before we move.
  • I sold several things on Bookoo, including a rifle sling my husband doesn’t like, a set of dishes we rarely use, and a teething necklace I got as a freebie with a lot of cloth diapers. I made more than $30 this week!
  • Little Man and I took advantage of our continued health care and had appointments at the chiropractor. My back is KILLING me during this pregnancy, and these visits help a lot.
  • I asked my friend if she would watch Little Man for my next doctor’s appointment. I’ve watched her daughter twice now, and she offered to watch LM during my appointments! This will save me $10-$15.
  • By turning off lights when we aren’t using them, opening the window shades during the day, unplugging our kitchen appliances, and not using the heat, we managed to cut our electricity usage by more than 100 KWH this month. I know February was a short month, but that’s still significant! We get a refund check if our electric usage remains below a “grace buffer”, and we’ll be getting $27 back this month.
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20 Chore Tuesday- Daylight Savings Blues

Is it Tuesday again? Blegh… I feel like it should be Friday already. Unfortunately, 20 Chore Friday doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Just a quick note to anyone who does 20 Chore Tuesday with me- your list doesn’t have to be the same at the end of the day as it is at the beginning. I adapt my list to reflect what I can accomplish that day, based mostly on LM’s schedule. For example, I did a few extra loads of dishes and laundry today, and didn’t get around to making muffins. It’s okay to change your list, as long as you get 20 things done before you go to bed!

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  1. Little Man helped me unload the dishwasher, and I reloaded it.
  2. Folded a laundry basket full of clothes and set it on the steps to be taken upstairs later.
  3. Little Man and I unloaded the freshly washed load of dishes, and put the few things that were still in the sink in there. I’ll run that load right before bed, and unload it tomorrow.
  4. I scoured both Bookoo and the local Facebook resale page for maternity jeans. I didn’t find any dark wash boot cut jeans that are long enough to fit me, so I’ll be making a trip to the thrift shops on Friday to see if I can find any there. I refuse to pay full price! Viva la frugal revolution! Of course, the most frugal option is to not buy any at all, but yesterday one of my three pairs of maternity jeans split down the middle of the butt, in the middle of the MCX, while I was wearing bright yellow panties, so I do think it’s time to add ONE more pair to my wardrobe.
  5. Gave the dog a bath. She ate the poo out of a diaper yesterday while I was attempting to wrangle LM into his pants, so she got the full shampoo/condition/tooth brush routine. My husband will clip her nails when he gets home. She now looks and smells 6,452% better, and about 10% more depressed. I guess baths make her sad.
  6. Photographed and posted 5 items on Bookoo. It’s really looking like we’ll be moving in November, so I’m starting on the decluttering now. I’m hoping to bring in some nice moolah from the crap in our garage.
  7. Dusted the top of the T.V. It was really gross up there, and you can see it every time you go upstairs. I feel better now that it’s clean!
  8. I put away one laundry basket full of clothes. They’ve been folded for quite a while, I just keep ignoring them. But no longer!
  9. Took the dog on a nice, long walk. It’s been really hot, and we’ve just been making quick trips to the mailbox at the end of our street and back. Today we walked a few blocks, which was good for all of us, since our normal family exercise of kayaking has been out of the question because of dangerous rip tides and waves.
  10. Made some dinner. Frozen homemade perogies and festival corn, yummy and frugal!
  11. LM’s high chair is clean and spahkling, dahling. The cover is in the washer and will be dry by tomorrow morning!
  12. Washed a load of diapers. I have to do this at the end of the day every other day or every third day. Pretty soon this will be a once or twice a day chore again!
  13. I have a second load of dishes in the dishwasher right now. I even discovered that half of my sink was clogged, and deployed the Drain-o to blast the clog.
  14. I was going to pack a piccolo I sold on eBay, but I haven’t received payment for it yet. I instead opened a non-paying bidder case, and hopefully it’ll all be resolved in a few days.
  15. I packed a diaper I sold on Cloth Diaper Traders. I have to wait for the e-check to clear before I mail it, but I’ve dealt with this buyer before and haven’t had issues, so I feel confident in packing the diaper now.
  16. Put away the clothes I folded. It’s nice to not have a million stacks of clean laundry lying around.
  17. Emptied the recycling bin and the kitchen garbage into the big trash cans outside.
  18. Cleaned off the kitchen table. Not going to lie, the only reason I was motivated to do this was that Hubby was willing to play a game of Skip Bo with me after LM went to sleep.
  19. Ran one final load of laundry after the diapers were all done. Now that I’m down to to lonely pairs of maternity pants, doing laundry as often as possible is a big priority.
  20. E-mailed my academic advisor about switching majors. As we look around at what jobs are available, it’s becoming more and more obvious to me that a degree in Biology, while being fun and something I love, isn’t really a workable option for me in the areas where Hubby can get a job. I haven’t done any coursework yet for my bachelor’s degree, so now is the best time for me to switch to a business degree. It’s a lot more portable, and still interesting.