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Forget About the Price Tag

October 16th, 2012 at 07:12 am

I got my paycheck for my second job yesterday, which is $330 I get to put towards my fun trip this summer. I'm treating myself to the BlogHer Conference in Chicago in July, which I'm very excited about. Plus, my sister and her wife live in Chicago, which means I'll get to see them and my nephew, who is expected to arrive sometime in February.

I got my paycheck, though, and started giggling, wondering how I would explain exactly what it is I do on the side - as it would probably appall some of my readers.

No, I'm not a phone sex operator. But my second job probably will raise some eyebrows. My father is certainly horrified.

I proofread gay erotica for an online publishing company.

It is sometimes hilarious, sometimes frustrating, but always fun. I'm getting paid to read, basically, and seeing as I read anything that isn't nailed down anyway, it's an awesome side job for me. I don't make much, as I proof anywhere from 3 to 6 short stories to novel length stories a month, but the extra is very nice, is all mine, and as a bonus, I get to tell people what I do and laugh at their expressions.

There is really no down side to it!

Handy Man

October 14th, 2012 at 06:15 pm

The husband and I have now progressed to new and interesting ways to ensure that the "honey-do" stuff around the house actually gets done.

I pay him $10 an hour for stuff I can't/am not willing to do, and if he doesn't get it done within 2 weeks, I pay someone else to come in and do it.

Because honestly? Otherwise, it's not going to get done. I have no problem paying him to help encourage him to do stuff, because we're going to end up spending the money on SOMEBODY.

So, things I want done:

-replace towel ring (that fell down on Voldemort's head) in the guest bathroom with a towel bar. One V can reach to hang up his towel.

-put up shelving above washing machine/dryer.

-put up shelving in Voldemort's closet.

-put up storm door on front door (might actually have to call in a pro for this one, as Brandus isn't sure he can do it)

Yeowch for the ER Bill

October 8th, 2012 at 09:22 am

We just got the final total bill for Voldemort's visit to the ER last month. Over a thousand dollars! I could cry.

The man is unhappy, because he says what's the point in having insurance if it doesn't actually HELP with the bills. I'm not upset, because it's an ER visit and I expected it to be expensive.

The good news is that medical bills can usually be negotiated a bit - here, if you pay off the whole thing, they give a discount. That's not going to possible with this one, as paying off all of it would wipe out our entire emergency fund, and NO. Fortunately, they will set up a payment plan. As soon as I get a chance to call them. Which is difficult, as they're open 8-4, and I work 7:30-4:30. Argh.

But yikes. And here I thought we might have a little extra money this month to put aside for winter break travel.

Turn Your Ears Up

October 4th, 2012 at 09:15 am

I have an anxiety disorder, which mainly manifests at work and stress about getting into trouble at work and then getting yelled at and/or fired.

I also have a 40 minute commute each way, and yes, these two things are very related.

In my 40 minute commute, I have way too much time for the hamster wheel in my brain to spin, and it goes around and around about what could go wrong that day (on my way in) or what did go wrong (on the way home).

I'm medicated, which helps reduce the spinning, but more than anything else, audiobooks are my savior on the long drives.

Audiobooks give me enough to focus on that I don't have any extra brain cells to focus on the spinning of the wheel.

I've been getting most of my audiobooks online - generally through amazon or the free ones through [url=http://librivox.org/], which has all kinds of books in the public domain free for download. I've also been gifted some, gotten some from the library, and found a few online in other places.

I've listened to some I've really liked, some I've tolerated, and a few I've just given up on in irritation or disgust. I couldn't finish The Da Vinci Code during to hysterical laughter over the eight thousand things Sophie was keeping in the pockets of her sweater, for example.

I would love some suggestions of books or places to look for books. I mostly tend to stick to science fiction, fantasy, young adult novels, and "chick lit." I don't want anything political, or anything that will make me yell at my radio.

Any suggestions would be awesome!

Mother in Laws, Fertility, and Adoption

October 2nd, 2012 at 11:46 am

1. My father in law died 2 years ago, and since then, Brandus' mom has gone drastically downhill. I know she's dealing with depression, but she's also in poor health herself. And she flat out refuses to go to the doctor.

She passed out when she was talking to someone a few months ago - fortunately, a cop who quickly called an ambulance, but she brushed it off and said, "oh, they just said it was low blood sugar."

I'd told Brandus the last time she came to visit that I didn't feel comfortable leaving her watching Voldemort anymore, and HE brushed that off.

This last visit was his eye opener, though. She can barely make it up and down the stairs. She has to cling on to the walls and the railing. Her hair is very thin, she's lost weight, and her arms are two huge age spot bruises. She looks like my 94 year old grandfather, and she's only 64. And once she gets started coughing, she can't stop.

So, he called his uncle, and with both of them putting pressure on her, she's agreed to sell the house and move down here. NOT IN WITH US, because NO NEVER EVER, but to our town. Our job is to find her an apartment she can afford. We're hoping we can put more pressure on her and actually get her in to a doctor down here, but it's doubtful.

This is 1)good, as it will reduce Brandus' stress level, and 2)bad, as it will increase my stress level. Oy.

2. Brandus and I want another kid, but haven't been having any luck for the past 2 years or so. We've seen the fertility doc and have tried a couple of things, but so far, no luck. When Voldemort comes home from Kindergarten with pictures he's drawn of the brother he wants, it really kind of sucks.

3. To go along with that, Brandus and I are looking into the foster/adopt program for our county. We've been planning on this regardless of fertility and whatever happens with that. We have an informational meeting later this month, and then we have to start jumping through hoops. I know there will be applications and home visits, but I'm not sure what else will be needed to be done. Anybody gone the foster/adopt or domestic adoption route?


October 1st, 2012 at 09:02 am

We just got the letter that Brandus' student loan forgiveness application was APPROVED! That is $5000 that we do not have to repay!

For such a long wait, it was a very short letter. It didn't say which loan the $5000 was coming off of - he has a total of 4 student loans, of various amounts and interest rates. I'm hoping it came off of the highest rate ones, but I'm betting not.

But I am very excited about it, as it will change our monthly repayments less - which is more that we can put towards our credit card payments! And yes, I know, I could continue paying the same amount on the student loans and make them go away quicker, but, honestly, the credit card is much more important to me. The Discover card has a much higher interest rate than any of the student loans - it's much more of a priority.

Over the weekend, we also went to the Denver Zoo, where we have a membership. We ate lunch before we got there, and we had a ticket for a free ride on the train, so it was a pretty low cost trip..except for the snowcone we ended up getting for the small friend who went with us.

We went out to eat at The Old Spaghetti Factory for a treat, and it was totally worth the cost. Smile

October will be Expensive

September 27th, 2012 at 08:28 am

Things that need to get done in October, as we've been putting them off due to lack of money. But now that I've gotten my first full paycheck from my new job, we're a little better off and have some extra money to play with.

-new tires for my car
-new tires for Brandus' car
-repair/replace speedometer for my car
-check on SRS light on my car and fix airbag if needed

-cleaning for me (find new insurance card!)
-cleaning for Voldemort (no dental insurance)
-cleaning for Brandus (this won't happen this month, but I have to start nagging him early about going)

We have $405 put aside for cars, which will pay for at least 1 set of tires. The speedometer replacement will be HORRIFYINGLY expensive, I'm sure. Any suggestions for what to do/where to go/who to ask?

Eating Out: An Ongoing Cycle

September 26th, 2012 at 07:08 am

I had a full entry typed up yesterday and the internet ate it. Boo.

Last night, I had a meeting and Brandus had Parent Teacher Conferences. I had to leave my job (45 minutes away from where I live), head to our town, pick up Voldemort, and then drive another 40 minutes to get to the town where Brandus works, so last night was a planned eat out night.

I don't mind every now and then, although I really don't like much fast food. The problem is that it throws me off for the next day.

I take leftovers for lunch almost exclusively. I don't care for sandwiches much, and I'd rather have something hot, so I pack leftovers.

The trouble comes when there ARE no leftovers.

If I eat out for dinner at an actual restaurant, it's generally ok, because I usually have leftovers from large servings. But when I eat fast food for dinner, it means that, almost always, I end up picking up something the next day for lunch as well.

Currently, for lunch today I have string cheese and an orange. I'm doubting that will hold me.

Student Loan Lag

September 24th, 2012 at 11:10 am

My husband has quite a bit of student loan debt. He has 2 Master's degrees, all gotten while we were together, and for a chunk of that time, he couldn't work due to having to attend school over full time to get it over with quicker.

We're both teachers, and while I was lucky enough to attend college on "the Daddy Scholarship," Brandus was not. He dropped out his senior year of college after his grandfather died and his grandmother told him they couldn't help him with tuition anymore. When we got serious, he decided to go back to school.

So, we have loans.

Teachers have some interesting loan forgiveness programs, though. If Brandus taught for 5 years in a Title 1 school, $5000 could be forgiven. If he taught special education for a certain number of years, $10,000 could be forgiven. While one of the Masters he has is in special education, we aimed for the Title 1 forgiveness loan.

We mailed in the application three months ago.

Two months ago, we got notice that they thought the application looked ok, and they were sending it on to be formally reviewed.

Since then, I get excited every time I see a Nelnet envelope. And for the past two months, every single time I've opened it, it's been a notice of forbearance of the loan. On one hand, that means that they haven't turned down the application. On the other, it means that they are STILL REVIEWING IT.

It would be amazing to have $5000 forgiven off of his debt. Yes, we would still owe quite a bit, but that $5000 is easily over a year's worth of payments towards that loan.

Come on, Nelnet. Throw me a line here. Please?

Bills Bills Bills

September 19th, 2012 at 11:24 am

My apologies if you're now singing Destiny's Child, but that's the price you pay for reading this blog. Smile

Last month, both Brandus and Voldemort ended up in the emergency room. Brandus for gall bladder related reasons, and Voldemort due to a very very nasty stomach virus. We rarely go to the ER. Before this, the last time we went was when I broke my wrist and elbow 2 summers ago right when we were moving in to the new house (OF COURSE). We tend to try and take care of things through normal doctor visits and by taking liberal advantage of the fact my dad is a doctor and can prescribe some meds and answer questions about most issues.

But Brandus wasn't getting better and wasn't getting better and the doc-in-a-box he went to see sent him to the ER.

And then Voldemort started throwing up - which, hey, he's a kid, we've dealt with it plenty of times - but then he was getting sick more often and just laying there crying in pain, and the pain was getting worse, so off to the ER we went.

Fortunately, both of the boys are fine now, but holy heck, do we have some bills to pay.

And of course, the billing offices at any of these places are only open from 8-4:30. And I work 7:30-4:30. So I've spent my entire lunch break calling and paying various bills. Naturally, it's not just ONE bill. It's 2 separate bills from the hospital, 1 from pathology, 1 from radiology, 1 from labs, and 1 from the doc who saw one of them.

So, today's daily spending?

And we still haven't gotten most of the bills from Voldemort's trip. Yuck.

The slight good news is that I finally got my new insurance card in the mail, so I can take the receipts from my last prescription back and get a little bit of a refund. I doubt it will be much, as the total bill was under $20, but hey, every little bit counts!


September 17th, 2012 at 11:31 am

I had an awesome lunch all packed to go this morning in my froggie bento box, but as I was running out the door I managed to leave it on the coffee table. I wouldn't even have realized it until I got to school except for the husband and the kid calling me to tell me.

So, for the first time this school year, I had to go out and get lunch.

I HATE having to go out - we only have 45 minutes to eat, and I'd rather spend that time actually eating as opposed to sitting in a drive through line, but if I don't eat I get a raging headache, and trust me, you do NOT want to try and deal with 12 three year olds unfed and with a headache. IT'S NOT A GOOD IDEA.

I went to Subway, as it's at least mildly heathy, but I'm still pouty about it.

Oh well, at least this way my lunch is already packed for tomorrow, right?

Daily Spending: $5.94

A Day at the Playground

September 16th, 2012 at 06:28 am

Thanks so much for the welcome back! I'm excited anybody remembers me!

One of the biggest activities we do on the weekend is hitting up parks and playgrounds. We live in a city with about 8 different parks, and we're within easy driving distance of about 5 more. And when you've got a 5 year old, you get desperate for anything that gets them out of the house and doing physically active things.

They sleep better and are much less whiny when they've been running around outside for a while. TRUST ME.

So, we go to playgrounds and parks. We have 1 close enough to walk to, and we hit that one on a pretty regular basis, but we like to change things up so nobody gets bored.

So, yesterday we packed up ourselves, some sandwiches/chips/fruit, and headed out to the "Castle Playground." Unfortunately, the Castle playground is a pretty good distance away - about 30 minutes - but we had my mother in law with us, and Voldemort wanted to show off his favorite playground. We really don't go there very often, but it is REALLY cool. It has a fountain and a small water area, and the rest of the place actually looks like a castle.

We did stop by Whole Foods to pick up a few things, so it wasn't a completely cheap trip, but we didn't end up eating out and the park is free, so other than Whole Foods and the cost of gas, it was a pretty frugal day out.

A Long Long Time and Two States Ago...

September 12th, 2012 at 11:37 am

The last time I updated was over 3 years ago! I decided it was time to revamp the place a bit. We're moving from The Money Pit - when we were moving from state to state with reckless abandon - to Frugal on the Weekends - where we now own a house, make more money, and can focus on our frugal actions in order to pay down credit cards, save for a new car, and get rid of student loans.

Both Brandus and I work full time plus as teachers - I teach preschoolers with special needs, and Brandus teaches middle schoolers with attitudes. We both commute 45 minutes each way. In opposite directions, of course.

At home, we have a Kindergartner of our own. Five year old Voldemort is hilarious, weird, and way too smart for his own good.

By the time we make it home, we cook dinner, do homework with the kid, and collapse in exhaustion. There is very little frugal activities during the week.

But on the weekend? We have time. We have energy. We have...dirty laundry, a messy kitchen, and a wild child to entertain.

Here's our experiences trying to get the new house fixed up, fight the HOA for a clothesline, and entertain the child, Voldemort!

Hitting the Fan

November 9th, 2008 at 07:32 am

Let me ask you a question.

Let’s say you have two jobs, job A and job B.

At job A, worker A comes into work at 7:30am, looks over the plans left on the desk, executes plans, walks children to bus, and leaves.

For this, worker A brings home the tidy sum of $90.

At job B, worker B comes into work at 7:30am, looks over plans made by self previously, executes plans, walks children to bus, does report cards, attends afterschool training, does before and afterschool duty once a week, holds parent/teacher conferences, and creates more lesson plans.

For this, worker B brings home the tidy sum of $90.

Worker B looks at worker A’s job and says, HUH? She contacts people, asking if this was right. She is told to shut up and do the work assigned, even though she WAS worker A just a few short weeks ago.

She emails the principal, expressing concerns and asking for clarification of responsibilities.

Email is ignored.

Worker B then contacts the district office by phone, and is addressed as, “oh yes, the one who wants more money.”

One week later, worker B is called into principal’s office, at the end of the day after the kids and the aide have left and told she won’t be needed anymore. When worker B asks why, she is told that her lesson plans are lacking and the way she speaks to the kids makes the principal frown. Ignore the fact that there was no notice taken when worker B brought up concerns about how aide B spoke to the kids in the classroom.

Now, what would you bet is the REAL reason worker B was asked to leave?

Digging Our Way Out

October 26th, 2008 at 08:25 am

I'm feeling a little more optimistic today!

The check for Brandus' teaching license finally cleared (which messed up our budget for daycare costs, but oh well), which means the district finally sent in his application. When he called the licensing place, they said he should have it by mid November. HOPEFULLY, this means he should get his correct pay and all of his backpay for the past 3 months at the end of November paycheck. I'm not holding my breath, though - if he doesn't have it in hand and turned in to the district by the 15th, it won't count until the December paycheck.

I should be getting my first paycheck for the long term sub position at the end of this month, which should be over $1000, which will help a good bit.

And in REALLY good news, we canceled cable and land line ($70ish), reduced our cell phone minutes ($30), canceled brandus' unused xbox live subscription ($8), and found out our utility bill is down from $180 to $140 this month ($40) - that's $150 worth of bills I dont have to stress about paying next month!

Talk the Talk

October 15th, 2008 at 06:52 am

My husband has been very resistant to even talking about money lately.

I know he's stressed. He's currently being underpaid about $600 each paycheck due to a licensing snafu that was the school district's fault. I'm working as a substitute, so Im making a lot less than I would be if i was in the classroom full time. But he'll barely talk to me about it.

He just gets angry and defensive. I dont want to yell at him for using the credit card to buy Taco Bell (although, OMG WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?), I want to sit down and have a healthy conversation about our goals - you dont like it here? Ok, where do you want to move? How are we going to save up the money to do it? - but the last time I tried, it ended in a huge fight, and Im not going to be the bad guy moneywise anymore.

A few days ago, I told him I sold our mutual fund - because we needed that extra money to pay our EVERY DAY BILLS. I guess that finally scared him. Since then, he's been talking about a second job, talking about how he'll call and cancel cable, and call and downgrade our cell plan...

Well, it's good to know he can talk the talk.

I finally ended up calling and canceling cable and our land line today, as well as downgrading our cell plan.

Now, we just have to wait and see if he'll actually follow through on getting a second job, or if I'm going to have to do that, too.

Forever and a Day

October 8th, 2008 at 09:23 am

It's been quite a while since Ive blogged over here..since well before we moved.

We've settled from Alaska to North Carolina, found a decent apartment and jobs.

Brandus is not liking his teaching job this year. Im not liking the fact that this comes out in yelling fits at me over stupid stuff.

Im REALLY not liking that they "lost" his license application at district office, and have been paying him as a first year teacher with his BS for the past two months.

Im subbing in second grade at the moment, which is fun most days, and exhausting all days.

The child is in daycare, which is spendy, but he loves it, they love him, and we think it's really good for him.

But, I do have a problem. Seeing as murder is a crime, is there ANYTHING I can do to deal with the man in my life whom I love very very much that is REFUSING to deal with the current financial issues we find ourselves in? He wont sit down and talk to me about where we are, doesnt want to look at numbers, and if I bring it up, there's a yelling fit on his end.

He's being an ostrich.

And yeah, we're getting paid a FRACTION of what we got paid in Alaska. Im not working an entirely steady job. He's getting shafted $500 a paycheck. i GET all that. But its the 8th of the month, and we're already down to $67, and he WILL NOT help me.

What the heck do I do? Im really starting to get cranky about it.

Traditions and Taxes

February 13th, 2008 at 01:26 pm

*sigh* Looks like we'll be paying big time, tax wise. I have to go back through TaxCut again, to make sure Im not missing something, but right now, we owe over $1000!

We make good money up here, yes, but Im pretty sure I never even changed my withholding amount after Voldemort was born - so we shouldnt owe THAT much. I think.

I think it's the rent issue tripping us up. Our rent is tax deductible because we live in the provided teacher housing and have no other options. I need to check closer and make sure that it is being applied correctly as a deduction.

Brandus has decided that he wants to First Dance at Potlatch this year, which is awesome.

Potlatch and First Dancing is a HUGE thing to get to do - it basically declares you a part of the culture. But, it's alot of work. Id like to First Dance too, but with dance practice being held every night from 7 til 10 or later, I cant. The Dark Lordling has to go to bed! Plus, the women have so much more physical stuff to prepare than the men!

The men have to have fur boots, a kaspaq (traditional shirt), and dance fans.

The women have to have boots, kaspaq, fans, fur headdress, fur belt...

We have a month to get him ready - he's already ordered his boots. I dont know how much they were - he wouldnt tell me. And he's selling one of his game systems to fund the boots, so it doesnt matter to me in the slightest.

So, now we have to put together the gifts. The first night of Potlatch, the First Dancers hand out gifts to as many guests as possible. We were already told we dont need to worry about getting any axes or shovels, which makes things a little easier. But, a lot of the gifts are traditional and we cant exactly just hop on down to Anchorage to go shopping.

Just so you have some idea of the magnitude of this, we're talking about 2 entire villages coming to dance and visit. And we have to get gifts for many of them.

And then, the second night, we have to bring MORE gifts - this time all food!

It's alot to do, and if Brandus wasn't going to be selling off some things to help pay for it, there's no way we could do it. He also has his class making things for gifts - ammo bags and beaded bracelets and things, which I think is really cool.

But, we have to go online tonight and order things. Otherwise, they might not get here in time. And we have to put some of this month's savings/debt payments towards stupid taxes.

It All Adds Up

February 7th, 2008 at 02:53 pm

So, out of curiosity, I took a look at how much I owed last year on the credit cards vs how much we still owe.

And I got depressed when I saw the numbers.

Last year: We owed 15,000
This year: We owe 10,000

And I thought, that's it? 5000 is all we've managed to pay off? What the heck did we move to Alaska FOR?

But, then I started really thinking about it.

Yeah, 5000 doesnt sound like much, especially with how much money we're currently making - but we had a baby. We moved. We traveled this summer.


We managed to put almost $3000 in savings for our next moving adventure.

So, while we didnt get out of debt, which I was really hoping for, we did make a dent. And we've got a good emergency fund.

And a baby.

So, hey, not too bad. Not bad at all.

Minty Fresh

January 28th, 2008 at 06:27 pm

Has anyone had any experience with mint.com?

I love the idea - tracking all of your bank accounts online.

But, you have to give sign in information for each account. And frankly, that makes me very nervous. Someone is one hack job away from having all of my logins for my bank, my credit card, my savings account..

So, any experience, good or bad?

Quite a Chunk of Change

December 3rd, 2007 at 01:11 pm

Last year, with me being pregnant, we were heading in to Anchorage about once a month.

Our flight there cost $1300 for the both of us, then hotel, food, fun...it added up.

And I knew that. I knew it cost alot.

But it really didnt hit me until last month, when we both got full pay, and didnt have to go in to town at all.

I had $200 left at the end of the month. And that's after paying all of our bills, paying off $400 in credit card debt, and putting a full $600 in our EF.

Wow! Think how much I can actually do the rest of this year if we can keep from going into town!

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 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.


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


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...


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

Piecing on the Sides

September 28th, 2007 at 06:52 pm

I was making the rounds of my financial statements today and out of sheer curiosity, requested a credit increase on my USAA card.


They raised the limit from $1500 to $20,000.


When I realized that was more than I owed on all of my other cards put together, I called up USAA and requested a lowered APR as well.

They dropped it 4%, which means it is now the lowest of all of my cards.

So I transferred my Discover ($6600) and my REI Visa ($4200) over to the USAA, and now have only ONE card I have to worry about paying - with a lower interest rate than ever before!


Quick Credit Card Roundup

September 18th, 2007 at 09:43 am

Hopefully, ill be able to post more soon, but with Voldemort being almost 5 months and already trying to crawl, my time is a little limited.


Here's what's left that we owe, credit card wise. Im leaving out the car and student loans.

Dis: $6,361.32 (sigh)
REI: $4,338.79
USAA: $281.11 (which Brandus will pay in full by next week!!)

And then Old Navy, which we normally pay in full, which is about $150 right now.

So hey! We're making SO MUCH PROGRESS!! *spins*

When I come back, does anyone want to hear about cloth diapering or bento lunches? We've been doing both, and its helping financially.

Long Time No See - Update

August 9th, 2007 at 10:49 am

Whoa, its been quite a while since I logged in and posted! I've been reading on and off, but I've been pretty much insanely busy.

Little Lord Voldemort was born April 23 in Anchorage, AK (and I had plenty of money put away for the whole time we were there).

He's a cutie, that's for sure.

Here's the Dark Lordling hanging out with his Daddy in a hotel.

His birth story was rather insane, involving a very fast labor and no time for Brandus to get from the village to Anchorage to be there. And two weeks later, he was on his first plane!

We've traveled all summer, which we've been able to afford because my dad flew me and the little guy on skymiles to Georgia and back. And then we flew Brandus on a buddy pass, thanks to my aunt, who is a flight attendant on Delta.

But, we went to Georgia, where we stayed with my folks for three weeks, then to Colorado, with Brandus' folks for three weeks, then to San Francicso, just for a vacation, and now we're back in Alaska!

its been an insanely busy summer, and all with a baby in tow. yikes!

Moneywise, we did pretty well. We got our May, June and July paychecks at the end of May in three deposits over 2 days, so Ive been a little stressed about budgeting.

Most of it I immediately put into our ING account, and only transferred a couple thousand over at the beginning of each month.

Of course, that's MY checks. Not my husbands. He makes a little less than I do, but I can tell you right now that he has nothing or very close to nothing still in his account. Whereas I have $1000 left in the ING account.

He also owes the credit card $600, as he said he would use a specific reimbursement check to put towards one of the cards - and then he spent it.


He will be setting up a direct deposit to "our account" this year. Oh yes, he will.

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