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Archive for November, 2007

Moving On Up

November 27th, 2007 at 11:46 am

We've gotten a little further with the big move plans coming up.

Right now, we're looking at the Triangle in North Carolina - Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill - specifically at Carrboro, NC, which is sort of a small town within Chapel Hill.

If anyone is familiar with this area, I would love to know anything you have to tell me!

Ive wanted to move to North Carolina for years - its not home (GA), but its still in the South. And its cool enough overall that Brandus won't melt into a puddle and die, like he would in Charleston.

However, looking at the finances for moving is a terrifying thing.

We have to get from here on the edge of nowhere, Alaska to Anchorage, which, for all three of us and our cats will cost about $1500.

Then we'd have to get to Denver, where Brandus car, and our bedroom set and the furniture we didnt sell is stored - which would be another several hundred, depending on ticket prices. Hopefully, not another thousand, but you never know.

Then DRIVE from CO to NC, and add up gas costs and hotel costs and food costs..plus, by that point, the kiddo will be 1, and will need to take plenty of breaks from the car seat.

And THEN the basics of security deposits, first month rent, deposits for gas/electric/phone/internet/whatever...

*clutches head*

We're looking at needing a good bit of money!

Now, if Brandus gets a job with one of the school districts we are looking at, they have deals with some apartment complexes - so a security deposit wouldnt be needed. and possibly not for gas/electric too. That would help out ALOT.

We currently have $900 set aside in our savings, and $600 in my personal savings account, AND we get all three summer paychecks at the end of May in one big chunk - which will cover everything, I think..it would be about $9000 for my check, and about $8000 for Brandus'.

But that has to cover us for the entire summer - not just for moving.

Yikes. Way too many decisions left to make. I want to keep putting as much money into savings and towards our credit card as possible right now. The more, the better, I think!

How I Plan to Make Holiday Gifts Cheap and Green

November 9th, 2007 at 04:51 pm

Ive been thinking about holiday gifts for everyone on my list, and Ive come up with some neat possibilities that are both frugal and green.

First of all, I plan to make some reusable fabric gift bags - I think I have enough scrap fabric to do it, and I have a machine available at the school. A few straight seams, and either a drawstring or some ribbon, and I have bags that can be used over and over again!

I hate wrapping presents anyway, so this will save me time, effort, and money.


For Voldemort, who will be 8 months old, and his cousin, the Critter, who will be 4 months old, and we want to avoid all the made in China plastic/lead worries:

-I Spy bag. I have some scrap fleece and a bedspread bag that I can use for the window. Little treasures will be easy enough to come up with (beads, buttons, small toys), and Ill probably fill it with rice instead of the polypellets.

This is a toy with small parts so a baby will need supervision with it!

There is a tutorial for making I Spy bags here.


I might make an I Spy bottle instead - using a recycled Dr Pepper 1L bottle, and superglueing the top on.

Easy, cheap, and cute!

-babylegs! Baby leg warmers, basically. better than tights, and really good for protecting a crawler's little knees.

These are really easy. Women's tube socks or knee socks in whatever pattern you like. They just need to be cut off at the ankle, and a cuff made from the foot. There's a nice flickr tutorial here.

Ive made two pair from this tutorial, and it is really easy.


-fabric blocks

I dont have a pattern for these yet, but it should be pretty easy. And I have plenty of fiberfill to use, and it would be just as easy to slip a bell inside so it makes noise when the blocks fall. I think this will turn out really cute. The one thing that might be problematic is stuffing them - if they get overstuffed, they wont stack, and I really want a set for stacking.


For my dad, Ill make Toll House cookies - his favorite. He has yet to complain about the little tweaks Ive made to the original recipe - cutting the fat some with applesauce, and adding a little bit of cinnamon doesnt change too much about it, and is very yummy.

Ill need to get my hands on a tin to send them in, but I have everything else I need for this.

Ill probably also buy him an orchid - he has a little greenhouse and he LOVES orchids. His birthday is December 26, so I always stress about coming up with TWO gifts that close together.

For my mom and Brandus' parents, we're thinking of Journal Jars and a small blank notebook.

We want to make all the journal prompts focused on childhood and family, because ultimately, we'd love for Voldemort to have these as memories of his grandparents. Based on the fact Brandus' dad has about 6 months left to live, it would be even better of a keepsake.

You can make your own prompts or print them out. I bet using wrapping paper scraps would be really pretty to put prompts on.

All we need is to find a couple of jars - we have a spaghetti sauce jar that will be perfect.

For my sisters and my brother in law, we've already discussed making contributions toHeifer International, which is an awesome charity.

For everyone, we'll probably also make calenders for 2008, which we've done for the past several years. Word has a template for calenders and we've taken tons of pictures of the kiddo, so all that has to be supplied is paper and color ink.

The only problem is that we would then need to make copies and have the calenders bound. And we're 600 miles away from the nearest Office Depot. Hmm.

The only person Ive got left to worry about is my husband! And Im completely stumped when it comes to him!


Most everything on here can be made with recycled materials, and takes more labor than money. I hope some of these ideas will be useful to somebody else. And if anybody has any other ideas for homemade gifts, Id love to hear them!

Cutting Down to Necessities

November 7th, 2007 at 04:06 pm

I would love for us to be able to cut down on our spending. What I cant figure out is how the heck to do it!

We live in a fishing village in Alaska.

Let me repeat that.

We live in a FISHING VILLAGE. in ALASKA.

We already buy in bulk whenever we go to Anchorage. We plan it out carefully, too. We HAVE to. Because we've come up short at the Sam's checkout counter more than once.

We dont drive, the village has no cars, so we dont have to worry about gas. We both HAVE cars, they just arent here. And we have the insurance on them down to the minimum - we wont sell them, because we're planning on leaving here the end of this year, and we're going to need them.

We don't use cash in the village, except to pay our babysitter. The school cashes a check for us. We get direct deposit. So, we cant collect spare change.

We share wireless internet with our neighbor - we dont even pay her for it, we just take our her trash with ours.

We dont have to pay electricity or water or sewer - its all included. Our housing is supplied by the district, so we cant move anywhere cheaper.

The only thing that stops me from putting all the "extra" money towards our debt is concern that we might have to make an Anchorage trip unexpectedly.

If we go in for health reasons, then we get 90% of the plane ticket back. But still, that takes a while. Plus, then there is the hotel and food and picking up anything we've run out of..

Honestly, Im stumped. I have no idea how to cut our budget down any further.

How We Save Money with a Baby in the House

November 2nd, 2007 at 10:52 am

Voldemort is 6 months old now, and looking over our finances, we've started spending more.

Hey, you add another person to your family, and expenses add to it, too!

Here's some of the ways we save money:

1. Cloth diapers - even with the added expense of more laundry, its still cheaper over the long run. Plus, you dont have to worry about nasty chemicals on baby's skin, or about landfills.

They are an initial cost, but its pretty easy to locate gently used cloth diapers online, if you know where to look.

We use pocket diapers, which are more costly than the traditional prefolds, but are still cheaper than disposables.

I might do a more indepth post on this in the future, if anyone is interested.


2. Breastfeeding - while we have used formula, the kiddo is pretty much exclusively breastfed. Formula is EXPENSIVE. plus, breastmilk is better for baby - better for mom, too, in many ways


3. Delaying solids - kiddo is 6 months old, and no solid foods have yet to pass his mouth - unless he's shoving the cheetos I drop on the floor in his mouth faster than i can see. Up until about a year (every baby is different - use your best judgment), solids are mostly practice, and baby should still be getting the majority of nutrition from breastmilk or formula.

we dont do this just for the money factor - i think he should be able to sit up independently and be showing interest - not to mention still be hungry even after 10 bottles/breastfeedings a day


4. Making your own baby food when you do start solids

This is super easy. Whatever you're having minus spices plus liquid. Steam or bake. Mash.


5. Buy clothes used - or better yet, dont bother buying them. His grandparents have, so far, managed to completely clothe the kid without us having to do much more than take pictures and send them.

Note: im not saying dont buy clothes. Im saying that we dont need to, because no matter how often we tell the grandparents and aunts that he has plenty, they still send more. we just gave up, and dont bother buying clothes often.

Thrift stores, yard sales, resale stores have TONS of baby clothes - most in good condition. Babies grow FAST, and there is no point in buying alot of expensive clothes that he might only wear twice.


6. Buy a few sizes ahead - this summer, we hit upon Chocolate Soup, a kids store in Denver, CO that was having a HUGE sale. The clothes are normally pretty pricey, but they're great quality. We bought some ADORABLE clothes for the then 2 month old in 6m, 9m and 12m sizes. Everything he;s outgrown that is too cute and still in fabulous condition has been packed away either to sell or to dress the next one, if we lose our minds and do this again.


7. Buy toys sparingly - especially right now, when everything made in China is being recalled due to lead content, keep an eye on your kid's toys. Believe it or not, a 6 month old is perfectly happy to play with the cordless phone or the remote (batteries removed), or a bowl, or a spoon, rather than the 2000 tons of plastic toys that often get bought.

not to say we dont have our fair share of plastic crap, just keep an eye on it. if it gets to a overwhelming amount, sell or donate.


8. Wear your baby - get a sling, a beco, an ergo, a snugli, anything. Wear the kid! This saves you from having to buy the stroller/car seat combo and is great for baby bonding. Plus, I can throw the kid on my back in my beco, and still have my hands free to make dinner.


9. Use Skype to keep in touch with people - we have a computer with a web cam attached, and use the free skype software to call my sisters and both sets of grandparents (also skype users) for FREE. They get to see the baby, and I dont have to deal with long distance bills.


10. Skip the accessories
Babies have all this neat "necessary" stuff, like crib sets and diaper genies and soothing crib toys that make womb noises. Skip 'em! You dont need them. The crib sets are EXPENSIVE, and you cant use half of the set when the baby is born - bumpers and quilts are smothering hazards when the kiddo is really little.

Diaper genies? We use a trash can.

Soothing crib toys? We had them. Then the batteries died and never got replaced. The Dark Lordling never even noticed.

We dont have a changing table, because we didnt have room. We change him on a pad on the floor or the bed.

Heck, skip the crib. Cosleep! Trust me, breastfeeding is EASY to do at night when you cosleep, once you figure out how to nurse lying down.



These are just some of the things that work (or, in the case of toys, that we are working on) for us. Hope some of them help!

Debt Roundup

November 2nd, 2007 at 10:14 am

Quick credit card roundup, just for tracking purposes

We HAD the Discover paid off in full and were just using the USAA card. However, the USAA card is an American Express card, and so not everywhere takes it. Which doesnt work when we've just discovered that our insurance doesn't cover well baby visits or immunizations - which we dont know until AFTER two visits.

So:

Discover: $460 - should take 2 months
USAA: $10,770 - I transferred all balances over to this card last month

We have an Old Navy card too, which needs to be paid off. But, it looks like the online access has been changed, and I cant figure out how to get into my account. This is wildly annoying.

However, last month's statement, which is wrong, says $205. We'll go with that.

Total cc debt: $11,435


Savings:

Basic: $75 - this is short term, immediate access type funds - like, if we suddenly notice we overspent. This had more, but money for this past month's doctor visit had to come from somewhere.

Ing: $492 - there is $200 direct deposited everymonth

Emg: $647 - this is my personal account, and i dont want to have to use it for moving or whatnot, but i want it included as EF

Total savings: $1214


Yeah. Thats just a little lopsided, dont you think?

Mathmatically Insane

November 1st, 2007 at 03:04 pm

So, Im trying to work out the difference between paying down the debt, and saving for the emergency fund.

At this specific point, we have about $11,000 credit card debt. Which sucks, and we're working hard on it.

We also have about $400 in our EF right now - we had closer to $600, but the health insurance hasnt reimbursed us for our flight out to Anchorage yet.

When your kid is running a 105 fever under 6 months old, you tend to not be as concerned as you should be about tracking receipts for reimbursement purposes.

So, obviously, our debt far outweighs what we got in the bank.

And we're planning on moving at the end of this year. We're not sure where yet, or if we're staying in Alaska or moving back to the lower 48.

We know we need to save money to move - and that if we move back to the lower 48, its going to cost quite a bit.

We need to save for the move.

We need to pay down our debt while we're making pretty good money.

How do we split it?

60/40, debt focused? 50/50?

I have no idea!

Im planning on sitting down this weekend and making up a list of the places we would like to move. Then, we've gotta think about moving costs, living costs, buying new things...

*sigh*

Any advice on moving and saving? Or on figuring out how to save FOR moving?