Friday Finances – savings in the new year

When I wrote my post about the {52-week savings challenge} a year ago, I never expected it to become the most popular post in my blog to date. thank you so very much to everyone who has shared that idea! I was successful in my goal, and used a lot of the account for Christmas shopping.

My new goal for 2014 is to continue saving at the $52/week level. Since I built up to it, over the last year, I know I won’t miss the money when it comes out of my account every Friday. At the end of December, I will have just over $2,700 saved. The biggest challenge for me will be leaving that account alone for the long term and allowing it to continue to grow. With our big vacation coming up in July, I see the potential for disaster (and a quick emptying of the account).

I actually have begun squirreling away money in a few different ways for our vacation with the hope that I won’t find any need to raid the savings, too. How am I saving for the trip?

  • $5- bill jar – If you’ve read my blog before, you knew the {$5 bill plan} would be at the top of my list. And thanks to the gal at the cash register in the cafeteria at work, I’ll be adding 2 more to the jar this evening. Yes, every single $5 bill goes into the jar.
  • $20 here. $10 there – Every so often I take a bill out of one of my cash envelopes (usually groceries or eating out) and stick it away. Doesn’t really affect the short-term budget and gives the vacation fund a boost
  • Gift Cards – one of my favorite ways to “hide” money is by buying gift cards that can be used at our vacation destination. I usually buy them at Target, and by using my RED debit card, I even save 5% on the face value.

What are your savings goals for 2014? I’d love to hear about how you’re planning to get there!

Frugal Friday: the $5 bill jar

queenmommy_5dollar-bill-savingsRemember way back in January when I shared that I was going to be saving all of my $5 bills through the year? The 5 months of the year, I put over $300(!) into the jar. Pretty cool, right? Well, I used all of that for summer vacation(s) and then started over.

There have been times during the last few months where I’ve used my debit card instead of cash, and I didn’t save nearly as much. I also ended up spending more overall.

Right now, there is at least $200 in the jar. I’m committed to using cash through the holiday season, and will make a final count on January 1.

My plan for the jar? Keep filling it through 2014. We have a big trip planned for the end if July, so I may use (part of) this for spending money. I’ve also been stashing cash in other locations so the girls have spending money, too. Honestly. I’m feeling a bit like my grandma, Ava. She was a child of the Depression and used to have cash stashed everywhere!

So tell me…how do you save? Are you like me and set out with a great plan, but struggle to keep with it for the long haul? How do you get yourself back on the savings wagon when you find you’ve hopped off?

ten on Tuesday – 10 things I want to do during winter break

The third semester of my masters program is coming to an end. I have two finals next Monday, and then freedom awaits…until the Spring semester begins. Truthfully, I am thrilled that I am socloseithurts to being halfway through this program. 18 hours done; 18 to go. To celebrate the beginning of this new season, I thought that maybe I ought to write a little something over here. Then I said to myself, “Self, you need to be more consistent.” That’s true in many respects, but this little piece of me on the web is so often forgotten I am almost surprised to see it’s still alive. Hmmm…I have a couple if house plants in the same situation.  Anyway, let’s get this party started!

10 Things I Want to Do During Winter Break

  1. old_town_warren_wichita

    Photo courtesy wichitaonthecheap.com

    See a “grown up” movie at the theater by myself. I love my girls dearly, and we had a great time at the local drive-in several times over the summer.  They are always well behaved when I take them to the movies, but I am tired of paying big bucks to go to the movies only to see kid flicks.  Just once during this break, I am going to go to a movie without my tagalongs. Catching Fire, anyone?

  2. Clean the house. If you’ve ever seen a picture taken inside our home, it’s likely a close-up. I’ll admit right now that happens because I am a horrible housekeeper, and I hate to show the mess to the world.  When I’m stressed, busy or both, this is one of the first things that falls by the wayside.  I keep up with laundry, garbage, and most of the dishes, but everything else is a wash. (Warning: affiliate links ahead) Almost a year ago, I picked up a copy of 28 Days to Hope for Your Home over at {A Slob Comes Clean}. I tried to start during spring break and again at the beginning of the summer, but only made it through the first 5 days before I stopped working at it. Winter break is just the right length of time to get through the tasks a AND begin a maintenance routine.
  3. See the lights. For as long as I can remember, I have loved driving around looking at Christmas lights. There’s something peaceful about packing a thermos of hot chocolate, tuning the radio to the local Christmas station, and driving around various neighborhoods to admire the light show.
  4. operatiom_holidayGive a little. This will be the second year that my department at work is volunteering with Operation Holiday. I will be at the distribution site helping families choose winter coats and blankets, full a shopping cart with food that has been donated, and distribute toys to the kids with the help of Toys for Tots. I loved volunteering last year, and have been looking forward to this day for months.
  5. Paint the bathroom door. this little project could be a post all by itself…and maybe it will become one. Let’s just say I painted the downstairs half bath on Labor Day but the door is still on sawhorses in the basement. It was awkward the weekend my mother came to visit., and I’m glad Daddy didn’t join her on that trip!
  6. Play.  I am looking forward to the kids beating me in both board games and XBox tournaments (the girls’ big gift this year).  I’m also hoping for a little bit of snow so we can get the sleds out of the garage rafters and take them to the Big Hill.
  7. Read a book.  Any suggestions?  I’m ready to get my hands on something that doesn’t resemble a textbook!
  8. Blog regularly.  This is one of the things I don’t want to end after the break is over.  I’ve had this blog for years, but have never maintained it.  Will 2014 be my year?  Stay tuned…
  9. Fill the freezer.  I love the concept of Once A Month Cooking (OAMC) and have recently jumped back on that bandwagon.  This fall, between work, school, and kids’ sports activities, we were home exactly one full night a week.  Having prepared meals has been a life saver!  I spend a week preparing my menu, one afternoon shopping, one evening doing all the chopping, and 8-12 hours cooking.  At the end of that work, I have 30-40 meals ready to heat in the oven, pop in the crockpot in the moring, or reheat in the microwave.  I’ve recently started a subscription service at (yes, it’s another affiliate link) {Once A Month Meals} , and I love it! One of their newest additions is an option to customize your menus.  I can start with one of their basic menus, take out the recipes that I know the girls won’t eat, and fill in with other options that look appealing to our family.  My latest cooking round was done using the website, and it was the easiest planning I’ve ever had.  The printables are exactly what I wanted, and they even put together a sequence for cooking day so you’re not hopping willy nilly from one recipe to the next.  There’s a true method to the madness.  During the break, I’ll spend a weekend making enough meals to last us 6-8 weeks instead of just a month.  I know it sounds like a lot of work, but once you get going, it is so easy.  My grocery bill is a lot less, we eat out less often (good-bye fast food syndrome!), and I spend hardly any time in the kitchen preparing meals  (and making a mess).
  10. Do (some of) the things I’ve Pinned. I know you’re just a guilty of this as I am! We spend hours on Pinterest finding brilliant ideas for our homes and wardrobes, how to to organize our lives and fees our families. And then we do nothing with those ideas. They sit on our virtual bulletin boards collecting virtual dust. I want to change that trend by completing a few of my pins during my break from school. Let’s not get crazy, but one a week, if chosen wisely, will satisfy my need to check things off a list.  Perhaps these projects will be inspiration for a future series.

And that’s it for this first installment of Ten on Tuesday.  Thanks for sticking with me tonight.  I’d love to hear from you, too!  Do you get a break this holiday season?  What activities do you have planned or what would you do if you had a break?

{de-clutter 365} breakdown

I have been horrible about keeping up with my de-cluttering! That derailment in the craft room really set me back, and I’ve had a hard time getting back in the swing of things. The closet is still empty and everything is still still scattered in the room. The girls somehow manage to wiggle over to futon to watch tv, but there is exactly zero visible floor in there. Yes, I do realize that was nearly 2 months ago! We of the disorganized nature are easily distracted and discouraged when a project like this goes awry. Tomorrow, I’m planning to head in there and shove it all right back in the closet. That is too big a mess for me right now.

We have made a couple of strides forward. I mean, it’s not like I’ve been sitting around the house twidding my thumbs! My 7yo and I made way through her room, with the exception of the closet. And I did the same for mine. The 9yo is next on the list…eventually.

So here’s where a little shout out goes to my new hero of sorts. Last week, Noni, over at {A Slob Comes Clean} shared the drama that is her master bedroom saga. I started following Nony’s blog when I was looking for cleaning instructions for kids. But after this whole confessional (you really have to watch her videos), I truly respect the woman. Can you show me another de-cluttering blogger will show you more than once that her house has gone to crap…again? She’s real, y’all. I like real.

Picked up her ebooks tonight.

Looks like I’ll be doing dishes tomorrow. Lots and lots of dishes.

the $5 savings plan

If one money challenge isn’t enough for you, how about a second?  Yes, this is another of those great ideas I saw floating around Pinterest in the first week of the new year.  However, the first place I read about it was over at {MommySavers}.

Here comes the bandwagon! I’m hopping on…will you join me?

queenmommy_5dollar-bill-savings

 

It’s just as simple as it appears.  Every time you come across a $5 bill, stick it in a jar.  Obviously this is an easier task if you spend cash instead of using your debit card for everything.  Looks like it’s time to go back to cash for a (long) while.

I’m also going to be sealing my mason jar so I can’t break into it in “emergencies”.

As of this morning, there is $20 in my jar.  And that’s just after a week and a half!  It will be fun to see how much we end up with at the end of the year.  At this point, I am naming these funds for a spring break trip next year.  Hopefully there will be enough to get us where we’re going (and back!).

 

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