Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Week in Review 1/21-1/28 and the End of Carla's Low-Spend Challenge

Carla's Low Spend Challenge, in Review
1) Track Spending - 100% - Everything written down.
2) Eat from Freezer - 50% - We ate some things from the freezer, but there's still plenty there left to eat.
3) Have Fun Cheaply - 25% - We didn't spend anything on entertainment, but we didn't do much either.
4) Organizing - 100% - I got my fridge, pantry, and living room cleaned out!
5) No Unnecessary Purchases - 25% - I bought a few things, but not as much as I usually do.

I have spent 122% of the monthly budget and we are 100% through the month.

Yep, I went over.  Way over.  However, the amount I went over is almost exactly the same amount as two medical bills from last month that I had forgotten about, but that came due this month.  So now I know it is possible to cut 13% from our budget and, honestly, I didn't really notice a difference.

I decided to break down our spending to see where the money goes.
Medical Expenses - 22%
Food and Household Needs - 21%
Utilities (not including phones) - 12%
Loan Repayment - 9%
Baby Supplies - 9%
Life Insurance - 8%
Phones (land and cell) - 7%
Car (including gas, not including insurance) - 6%
College Savings - 6%
Home Repair - 1%

I can spot some places where there is room for improvement - I'll tell you my plans tomorrow when I talk about Carla's Challenge for February (it's not too late to jump in yourself).

On the whole, I am happy with my performance on this challenge.  Although I went over in the money department, I made a bunch of progress cleaning.  My mom took pity on me and helped with the living room, so it went from looking like this:

To this:

And, in addition, I got my fridge and pantry clean.  Tomorrow, I'll talk about how I'm going to step up in February!

10 Pound Challenge
I weighed 202.4 pounds this morning.  So my plan is working, even though I broke my diet about a million times this weekend, what with my friends coming in.

2012 Goals
I am still in Exodus, reading about that stupid ark.  I hate the ark, and every piece of beaten gold that went into it and had to be recorded so that people thousands of years later can read about how much bling the Israelis put on it.  After I finish The Commentary of the Synoptic Gospels , I need to find a book that explains what relevance this has to my journey as a Christian, because I am just not seeing it.  But I am up to Chapter 40, so it has to end eventually.

I exercised 7 times last week, but only made it to the gym twice.  Hopefully I can still up my swim time to 17 mins this week (I'm going to the gym today after I finish this).

I've decided to put my tithe for this year into a separate account and pay it next year, thus giving me enough charitable deductions to be greater than the standard deduction in 2013.  I am thinking about putting it into the stock market in the interim, since if I have gains I can donate the stock and get further deductions for the appreciation without having to pay taxes on it.  Of course, if I have losses, I will have to make up the cash.  Would you take the risk?

As I thought, I didn't shoot last week.  Blargh.

Hope your week is going well!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Laundry Detergent, Baby Update

I first made my own detergent in August 2009. In December, I did a cost analysis, and decided that I would continue using it.  I've made my own detergent since then, and by last July I had my final recipe down.  I used it successfully for two months on the diapers, with no smells and no stains.

However, my recipe uses Borax, and Thirsties recommends that you not use Borax on your diapers (in fact, having done so, I have voided their warranty).  So I tried it without Borax, and it's just not the same.

I just whipped up a new batch of my old recipe.  Perhaps it will cause my diapers to disintegrate and I'll have to buy new ones.  Or perhaps Thirsties is just erring on the side of caution in the great "Borax on cloth diapers?" debate.  I'll let you know.

The next test: real food.  I'll give you an update (it will only be two or three months, as they are three months old now!)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Obamacare Picture Translation (political)

This is going to be a political post, because I can't help myself.  Just ignore it if you're not into the politics thingie.

This has been all over Facebook lately.

Apparently, this sob story is supposed to make you favor government-subsidized heath insurance.  But this is what I see when I read this poster:

I am 34 years old and health insurance is so over-regulated that it is difficult and expensive to procure.  Because my employer does not subsidize heath insurance, I made the decision to gamble that I would not need any.  That gamble failed when I became really sick.  

Because I am a good person, nothing really bad should ever happen to me, so I immediately tried to pawn my expensive problem off on someone else.  Insurance, a regime in which many people pay a little money for the possibility that they may someday need a lot of money, turned me down because there was a 100% certainty that I would need a lot of money immediately.

Luckily for me, President Obama has set up a government handout scheme and called it insurance.  Even though my premiums will never pay for my procedure (and I can stop paying them as soon as I am done with it, anyway), PCIP doesn't care because, unlike private insurers, they can always raise taxes to get more money.

Thank you, President Obama, for screwing over the people who actually paid for insurance and taxpayers everywhere by directing government money to me so that I don't have to pay for the consequences of my earlier bad decision.

(Photo from http://giveneyestosee.com/blog/)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week in Review - 1/15 - 1/21

Carla's Low Spend Challenge

I have spent 86% of our monthly budget, and we are 68% through the month.  I'd be almost caught up, but I broke down and decided to buy a stroller for my house, because I love the BOB Revolution
 at my parents' so much.  I bought the slightly less complicated-looking (and expensive) L.L.Bean Schwinn Turismo Jogger Double.  On the positive side, I got one refund from a doctor and one return of a deposit that will add 6% back to my budget as soon as they post to my account.  I also got confirmation that I will be getting another $100 back from a different doctor, and I put in insurance reimbursement requests for five months of psychiatrist appointments.  I don't expect this money to arrive during the challenge, but the motivation came from getting all my financial ducks in a row for the challenge.

I cleaned my pantry.  It was pretty gross, and I gave the chickens anything that was not encased in hard plastic, but my pantry is now clean again.  I also remembered why I stopped using my bread maker; it is on its last legs.  Apparently Cuisnanrt never intended its Cuisinart CBK-200 2-Pound Convection Automatic Bread Maker to bake bread on a regular basis; the top is broken and the clips that hold the bread pan in place are going as well, and it is less than three years old.  But it's still chugging (loudly) along, so I'm going to make bread in it until it dies completely.  Here is loaf number one, as promised:
I used this recipe at allrecipes.com, except that I used oat flour instead of oat bran, and it was delicious; we ate it all Saturday night.  Today, I experimented by substituting 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup white flour, making it a 20% whole wheat bread, and I liked it even better.  My goal is to get a 50% whole wheat bread that I like and can make in 5 mins or less via the machine, but this will do until I can find that recipe.

Now it is time to tackle the living room.  It is an absolute disaster, so normally I would make it a two week project, but two of my best friends from college are coming into town this weekend, so I want to get my booty in gear and get it done this week.

10 Pound Challenge

I've only cheated a little on my nutrient-dense pledge this week, and I have been working out.  I haven't weighed myself; I meant to this morning but I forgot.  I'll see how I am doing next week.

2012 Goals

I am on Exodus chapter 29 this week in the The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (still free from Amazon).  Reading about how the ark should be built and the priests should be dressed is so boring and doesn't seem relevant to my life at all.  Today my pastor recommended that I read Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels by Bruce J. Malina in response to some questions I had about Jesus' admonition to turn the other cheek.  I plan to request it from the library and will let you know if I find it helpful.

I made it to the gym 3 times this week!  Also, I worked out 6 days.  I start walking 5 days a week with my friend tomorrow, and I am planning to go to the gym MTWR and swim as well.

Money mostly remains on autopilot.  As I said above, I got some refunds that will go toward my totals.  I also need to put a few things in for FSA reimbursement, which will add about 3% of my budget back for the month.  It will be tight, but I think I can come in barely under the wire for Carla's challenge if I can limit myself to one more grocery shop in the next ten days.

The one thing I did not do this week was shoot.  I'm going to try to squeeze it in this week, but between the living room and extra gym time, it is kind of unlikely.  I guess I need to schedule a weekly time and just make myself go.  Because it is a fun thing, it keeps being placed on the back burner to other, less-fun things like cleaning the pantry.  And, chances are, my shooting skill (or lack thereof) won't matter a jot my entire lifetime.  However, if I ever need it, I want to be in good form and practice, and that's something that requires consistency.

How was your week?  Is your budget getting tight as the end of the month approaches, or is it just me?

Friday, January 20, 2012

10 Pound Challenge from Newlyweds on a Budget (a bit late)

As I have said before, I need to lose baby weight.  A lot of baby weight.  I've lost a lot of weight before, and the way to do it is one pound at a time.  So, even though I knew I needed to lose way more than 10 pounds, I signed up for the 10 Pound Challenge from Newlyweds on a Budget.  Erika, sweet pea that she is, has generously offered a $75 dollar cash prize to be randomly given to someone who has successfully lost 10 pounds by April 6th.

I figured that my starting weight would be 200 lbs +/- 5 lbs, and I was right; I weighed 205 lbs on January 16th. (Why is it that you never seem to hit the low end of your weight estimates unexpectedly?)  The silver lining is, with this much excess weight, and starting from a fitness level of practically zero, 10 pounds should be a snap.

My plan for weight loss:

1) Continue to work out 6x a week.  I've got a friend who also wants to walk, and she is in much better shape than I am, so she is going to kick my booty in gear.  We are set to walk five mornings a week.

2) Make it to the gym 4x a week.  This will be tough, what with the babies and all, but I think I can do it.  I'm only able to swim 15 mins right now, but I plan to add 1 min a week, so by April 6th I 'll be swimming 26 min, which is getting toward respectable.

3) Get back into Judo.  Not this month, but as soon as I have the rest of my workout routine down and am in decent enough shape that I feel confident I won't hurt myself.  I'm thinking the beginning of February.

4) Eat only nutrient-dense foods.  I ought to be doing that anyway; someone with hypothyroidism should not eat chocolate at times when she is tired, as it just exacerbates the problem with a massive sugar crash.  I'm not planning to count calories or restrict my eating in any way, as I don't want to affect my milk production.  An exception is homemade deserts; if someone offers me one, I will have a little piece, but I will not make any for the duration of the challenge.

I think this should easily put me past the 10 pound mark, but I plan to re-evaluate in week 4.  If I haven't lost at least three pounds by then, I'll re-evaluate my plans.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Week in Review - 1/8 - 1/14

Carla's Low Spend Challenge I have spent 65% of our monthly budget and we are 48% through the month.  I filled my car with gas and had a big grocery shop because I filled my pizza with frozen pizzas.  They were $4.50 each at Albertsons, so I bought eight of them.  I also spent $35 on really warm clothing for the babies so that I can take them out in the stroller when it is chilly; I did buy them secondhand, which saved me $45 over buying these at LL Bean.  They might not have been quite necessary, but our daily walk in the stroller is sometimes all that saves my sanity, and I did not want to interrupt it for the cold weather that we're expected to have between now and the end of the month.

The refrigerator (Confession, this post is so late because I spent the evening cleaning it in between tending babies so I would not have to post the before pic alone)



Hopefully this will help with the challenge by allowing us to see the food we have before it spoils.  (Although we were doing pretty good; aside from one meal I only threw away expired condiments.)

This week it is time to clean out the pantry.  I've been afraid to even look in there, because I'm afraid I'll be so grossed out that I'll have to throw everything away.  But it has my bread maker in it, and all my flour.  So my goal for next week is to show you a picture of the loaf of bread I baked using the ingredients in my cleaned and organized pantry.

10 Pound Challenge
I joined the 10-pound Challenge hosted by Newlyweds on a Budget. Lose 10 pounds in 12 weeks, win $$$. Are you in?
Weigh in is tomorrow; I'm expecting to weigh 200 lbs +/- 5 lbs.  It's a bit depressing; I haven't weighed this much since I graduated from law school in 2003.  (Note: If you are a stress eater, law school is not a good place to lose weight).  Mostly it depresses me because it is the visible sign of how out of shape I am.  But I have been this overweight and out of shape before and gotten healthy, and I can do it again.  I can't bring myself to feel too bad about the process of it; Monkey and Football are totally worth it.

2012 Goals

I am on Exodus Chapter 20 in the The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (still free, as of this writing).  The Proverbs 31 emails have begun arriving, and they are pretty good; I have trouble really meditating on them, but they are providing a daily routine.  I need to get a prayer routine going as well, and then I'll be golden.  Also, I made it to church this morning!  The sermon was on the miracle of overcoming lifelong prejudices (the text was John 1:43-51).  Our pastor grew up in rural Oklahoma during the depression, so he had a lot to offer on the difficulties of overcoming your ingrained notions of how the world is.

I worked out 5 times this week again, and never made it to the gym.  Mostly, I pushed the babies in their stroller around the farm.  (My parents got a BOB Revolution Stroller for going around the farm and it is awesome.)  I never seem to have the time to make it to the gym, though.  This week I helped my Dad choose a fabric sample for his new house on Tuesday, I went to my friend's granddaughter's funeral on Friday, and I watched the Saints on Saturday.  I am not sure what happened on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and the gym is closed on Sunday.  This week, I am going to make my three times, at least, though.

The money remains on autopilot.  I need to sell some stuff, and put in for some insurance reimbursement for some doctor's visits, and then I think I can make it through the month.  But I have to find the time to get stuff listed, and it hasn't happened for me yet.  To be honest, I'd rather have a cleaner house than have a bit more money at the end of the month, since I can always sell stuff later if Mr. Goat's job ends abruptly.

No shooting for me this week either.  But it is going to happen one afternoon this week.  Maybe I'll post some pictures of my groups so that we can all have a good laugh; I think a lot of the reason I'm reluctant to do this is that I know how awful my shooting is going to be.  I could have kept in practice by dry firing during pregnancy, but I didn't, and now I need to re-learn those skills all over again.  Hopefully it's like a bicycle, and it won't take me too long to pick up where I left off.

I did not accomplish as much this week as I had hoped, and the death of my friend's granddaughter really threw me for a loop for a couple of days.  This next week should be tough, but doable.  What's on your to-do list this week?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Eating the Baking Chocolate with Random Thoughts

Yep, I am.  Unsweetened dark chocolate is surprisingly good when you dip it in honey.  It's not doing anything for my weight loss goals, but I am so tired that I just can't bring myself to care.

Haven't gotten anything done this week, really.  Fortunately, there is still the rest of the week to go.  I am very blessed to have enough help that, despite Football's constant stomach troubles for the last three days, I've been able to get some sleep.

I am also blessed to have them at all; a good friend's 3 month old granddaughter died this week, and the doctors aren't even sure why. The funeral is on Friday so that they can do the autopsy today and tomorrow.  My babies got a lot of extra hugs and kisses for the last couple of days.

I don't blog much about firearms because there are so many other people on the web who do it better than I ever could, but I've found that the range is generally a great place to meet incredibly nice people.  A Girl and Her Gun talks a bit about her experiences with the firearms community this week, and, to give back, she is hosting a fantastic giveaway.  Since I've been lucky enough to attend some solid training, so that what I need is constant practice, I'm not entering, but I encourage any lady who is interested in the shooting arts, particularly in their self-defense applications, to put in an entry (it's easy).

Four more days until I have to post my dirty fridge picture ... I gotta get on that fridge cleaning thing!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week in Reivew - 1/1 - 1/7

Carla's Low Spend Challenge - I have spent 49% of our monthly budget and we are 25% through the month. A cheque that I wrote last month and forgot about hit my account today.  Ouch.  Also, Mr. Goat went to town to get milk and came back with more groceries.  $100 more groceries.  I've decided that anything I sell can go toward the household budget for the month and still meet the challenge; now all I have to do is find the time to sell something.

I've started on my refrigerator - all the obviously spoiled food is gone.  Now I just need to clear it out, organize, wash it out, and put it all back.  I did remember to take a before picture, and to motivate myself, I am going to post it next week whether I have the fridge finished or not (I do not want you to see this picture unless there's one of a clean refrigerator next to it.).

2012 Goals
I signed up for Proverb 31 Ministries' daily devotions, but they haven't hit my inbox yet.  Not sure what is going on there.  I decided that my bible to read this year is The Holy Bible, English Standard Version because it is free on Kindle right now.  Aside from that, I haven't even made it to church - today I slept through my alarm again, which is crazy; before I had babies I never slept through alarms.  I'm not sure what to do about this since Carla's challenge prevents me from buying Clocky.

I worked out five times this week, once less than my goal.  Four days I pushed the twins in their stroller; one day I returned Christmas presents and walked around the mall.  I never made it to the gym because I had no one to watch babies in the afternoon; the person who usually does' mother died last week and so she was not available.  I will "make up" the visits over the rest of the month.  Since I don't need a Weight Watcher's membership, it doesn't meet the terms of the challenge; I will start tracking food next month.

All the money is on autopilot.  Mr. Goat's acting CEO told him they are planning to hire another programmer; hopefully that means we will continue to get paid.  More on that as I know more.

I was getting together stuff to go out to the berm ... and then both babies woke up at once.  Then I spent the rest of the afternoon watching the Broncos-Steelers game with a friend and feeding babies.  After football season, Sunday afternoons should be a great time to shoot; until then I'd  better plan for weekday afternoons. Aside from a bit of fridge cleaning, and keeping up with the dishes, no household work has been done.

All in all, a pretty good week, but next week I hope to do better.  If you tend to sleep through your alarm clock, how do you make sure and get up on time in the morning?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Carla's Low Spend Challenge - Late to the Party

Carla is having a Low Spend Challenge this month.  Since Mr. Goat has major job uncertainty right now (his CEO quit the week before Christmas and, before leaving, said that his company was out of money) it is a good month to be frugal.  My goal is to save as much as possible this month while not neglecting any purchases that need to be made anyway.  I'm late in posting my goals, but I've been trying to keep to them since the beginning of the month.

Carla's Rules (with my annotations):
1. Track purchases! Write down every single penny we spend! 
2. Continue with my “sealed pot challenge”. Any coins smaller than $1.00 go into my pot! (I'm not participating in this challenge)
3. Menu plan & shop from a list Make the effort to eat all the meals I have stocked up in the freezer, rather than buying more groceries, as they won't last forever! This will probably be the best single way we’ll be able to stick to the budget!
4. Find free & cheap activities to have fun! 
5. Focus on simplicity, organizing, & donating/tossing as much as is possible with 2 month old twins. Before my January challenge starts I’ll be posting a list of projects I’d like to accomplish during the month right below this
6. Medicines/medical care doesn’t count. If something comes up & we need meds, I’m buying them. 
7. No “pre-stocking-up”. I won’t spend $800 on groceries the week before my challenge starts in order to “get by”. It’s business as usual this month. (It is too late for me to restock anyway)
8. No purchasing anything unnecessary.  If it would be nice, but not essential, to have, it can wait until I know if we have a paycheck coming in.  This means that the toy budget for this month is $0.  I have also cut the household budget (bills, gas, food, etc.) by 13% in the hopes of socking that away at the end of the month.
Projects to Accomplish:
(1) Clean out kitchen pantry.  We had mice last month (ugh) and I am dreading cleaning this out.  No more procrastinating; it needs to be clean and usable by the end of the month.

(2) Organize Dining Room.  The dining room has become the "catch all" room and we are not making efficient use of the space at all.  I'd like to get it set up in such a way that we could put a couple of rockers in there for babies, as well as eat dinner without shoving piles out of the way.

(3) Organize and Clean Fridge.  Some of out food waste comes from the fact that our fridge has not been cleaned thoroughly in months.  I need to find all the spoiled and expired food and throw it out so that we can see what we have easily.

I know it sounds like I have the nastiest house in the world, but the truth is that I've devoted my small amount of cleaning time and energy to keeping the babies' areas clean and organized, to the detriment of the adult areas.  Some parts of my house are actually quite nice, I promise.  The bathrooms and kitchen have been cleaned every week without fail.  And once I get these projects done, my home will be almost acceptable again.

So far, I have spent 23% of the monthly budget and we are 19% of the way through the month.  I'm a bit behind, but I shouldn't need to shop for groceries for another week, so I'll be on track if I can maintain the same spending pattern until then.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Goals

Last year, my 2011 goals got derailed by babies.  I debated whether it was even worthwhile to post goals this year, because, well, babies.  Keeping babies in mind, I decided to make my goal this year to do consistently the things that I know work, rather than undertaking new projects.


I feel like I am progressing the best in this area.  I still need a more active prayer life, but I attend church regularly (a 2010 goal) and have an off and on relationship with daily devotionals and prayer journals.  So basically I plan to do what I did last year, with small improvements.

(a) Continue to Tithe - a no-brainer, but it can be hard on months when money is tight.  I missed this goal in 2011 because I kept October's money back in case I needed it for cash flow (babies were born in October) and then it got spent in dribs and drabs until it was all gone.  I need to catch up on last year (hopefully with the tax refund) and then keep going in this one.

(b) Read another edition of the Bible from cover to cover - I didn't actually make this happen last year, because paper books are too hard to keep track of.  I did read The Message NT several times, though, because it was on my Kindle.  Now that I know what works, I plan to buy another bible edition for my annual reading - anyone have a favorite that they can recommend?

(c) Find a daily devotional or prayer journal that I can stick with - Again, this probably needs to be electronic to work, although the Kindle ones look hard to annotate properly.  Perhaps an app - any suggestions here?


At the end of this year, I want to randori at 90% for 3 three minute rounds in a row and still have some energy left at the end of it.  To get there, I need to:

(a) Lose 50 lbs - I gained 65 pounds when I was pregnant, and it does not appear to be melting away quickly.  On the other hand, I am breastfeeding two babies, and I don't want to do anything to affect my milk supply.  So my plan is to begin tracking what I eat, but not restrict calories until the babies start solid food.  So I may not make the full 50 lbs this year, but I need to get started.

(b) Work out 15 mins 6x a week; make it to gym 3x a week - Babies also destroyed my ab muscles and my cardiovascular fitness, and I want it back.  My parents gave me a gym membership for a year for my birthday, and I want to use it in a frugal manner.  Also, I have a stroller to take the twins around the farm in when the weather is nice, or I can do crunches or whatever when the weather is nasty.  By the end of the year I want to be back to swimming 45 mins easily.

3) Financial

For the first time in our marriage, Mr. Goat and I have a positive net worth!  This is not to say we are debt -free; our money is mostly in retirement accounts and we still have a pile of debt.  Our highest APR is 1.65% fixed, though, so our debt has felt far less pressing than in past years.  Still , I've allowed myself to get distracted by fantasies of Namibia and such, when I should be focusing on debt before pleasure.

(a) Save in anticipation of loss of primary income - Once again, Mr. Goat's job is on the bubble.  Baby-related expenses have put us in a more precarious short-term savings spot than we were last year.  This month we are both going without toy budgets and non-essentials (I should see if I can join Carla's low-spend Challenge late).  More on this as I know more.

(b) Fully fund 2 Roth IRAs - Mr. Goat and I are 100% in Roths because our employer IRAs are always shitty and have no match (125 basis points for an index fund?  No, thanks.) and Roths are easy.  Mr. Goat is actually eligible for an employer match if his job lasts until July, and I'll revisit this then if the job is still around, but otherwise it is Roths again for us this year.

(c) Save $1200 for each baby in a 529 - Louisiana has one of the best 529 programs in the country - no fees, and a match ranging from 2-14% depending on income.  We'd be fools to pass this up.  This won't come near to the amount they will need for college, of course, but it's all we can afford at this time, and surely higher education can't go up 8% a year every year for the next eighteen.  I have them open and the auto-debit started, we just need to keep enough cash in the checking account to make this happen.

(d) Pay off debt to parents by the end of the year - About 1/5 of my total remaining debt is a loan from my parents.  Right now, I am hoarding cash, but if I can get through the year without needing to draw it down, I can pay them off.  They are not hurting for it or missing it, but I would like to get it off my ledger, because then all I would have left is student loan debt.

4) Household

My house is a wreck and our personal defense plans need a serious re-vamp because, well, babies.  To ameliorate that, I need to:

(a) Begin again on Flylady Routines - They work if you do them.  I can find 30 mins a day to keep my house clean.  I can.  Really.

(b) Set up firearm storage in anticipation of toddlers -  I need to get a safe so that everything is neatly organized and put out of reach.  Storing my shotgun unloaded in my closet isn't going to cut it anymore.  I also need to get my touch safe set up so that I have something accessible if I need it at 3 am.

(c) Practice with my carry firearms once a week- They don't do you much good if you don't know how to use them.  I have a berm now (yay!) so I have no excuse.

Not sure how I am going to track this yet - maybe a bunch of sidebars.  I wish I were better at making my blog pretty, but that will have to be a 2013 goal because, well ...
Also, Geaux Saints!