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It All Adds Up

February 7th, 2008 at 10:53 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.

AND.

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.

How I Plan to Make Holiday Gifts Cheap and Green

November 10th, 2007 at 12:51 am

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!

How We Save Money with a Baby in the House

November 2nd, 2007 at 05:52 pm

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!

Long Time No See - Update

August 9th, 2007 at 05:49 pm

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.

*sigh*

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

In Money Wii Trust

March 22nd, 2007 at 06:30 pm

I know there are others here who feel like they and their families are on completely different pages moneywise, but sometimes I just dont know how to handle things as they come up.

Every spare cent - my allowance, my half.com money - for the past 2 months has been going straight towards being able to go to Anchorage and have the baby. I havent even been putting MY OWN MONEY into my personal savings account, because Im worried about no having enough.

Which is fine, as it is, my money, and my choice.

But then, when my husband mentions that - due to the afterschool tutoring program he is currently running, he's already made about $260 this WEEK, and is going to buy a Wii with it - why does this bother me so much?

It is, in fact, his money, his choice. i KNOW that. I do.

And thats probably why I just twitched a little and told him I wasnt entirely comfortable with that.

He got an Xbox360 for Christmas, half from me, half from his parents. He bought several games for it. He used his allowance for the NEXT several months (note: next, not last) to buy the Windows Vista upgrade. He just got us an AeroGarden (this is why I shouldnt go out of town and leave him on his own. Infomercials!). And most of this was from HIS account - which we also have to pay bills out of.

We are still very very close to maxed out on four out of five credit cards - mostly maxed while he was in school full time, and I was working a lower paying job. And the other maxed to move us to Alaska in the first place.

We are making a very good wage up here, and we COULD afford it, especially with this tutoring job. He's right, he's worked alot, and the Wii isnt as expensive as the other systems, so he probably could easily buy it with his paychecks from the tutoring.

But it just feels like we are on completely different pages. And no matter how much we talk about it, I get frustrated, because I feel like he isnt hearing or understanding my concerns.

Any advice?

Having Babies on the Cheap

March 13th, 2007 at 11:04 pm

Well..not really, but attempting to save as much money as possible while having kids!

Im due in May, and really, we dont have that much more that we NEED for the baby.

We're cloth diapering, so that's some money at the outset. So far, though, through ebay, I think Ive gotten some pretty good deals. We're using Kissaluvs and bum!Genius diapers initially - and while we still need a few more of both, we have 12 b!G and 13 kissaluvs, as well as 7 diaper covers, which is at least enough to get us started. All of that, including shipping, was about $285, and we can use those throughout diapering.

We're very lucky that both sides of the family are RIDICULOUSLY excited, as this is the very first grandchild for both, so they have gone a bit overboard with clothes and supplies. We've been given a crib, bouncy seat, car seat and stroller, baby bath..all kinds of things.

We still need a pack and play for the kiddo to sleep in while in Anchorage and then Georgia, and we still need fun exciting things like a breast pump. Bleh.

But, overall, we really havent had to spend much out of pocket at all - except for medical bills and little things we just wanted to buy for the fun of it..

I think this baby thing might just work! Smile

A Home With a View

March 9th, 2007 at 05:59 pm

We finally found a place to live in Anchorage!

We're only leasing it for 2 months, because all we need is a place for mom and I to stay before I have the baby, and then a place for mom and I and the baby to stay until we get the all clear for both of us to travel.

And this place sounds GREAT. Its fully furnished, corporate (so everything like towels and dishes come with), weekly maid service (!), highspeed wireless, cable, phone, garage - for $1200 a month.

Which is EXTREMELY expensive.

But, its a 2 bedroom, and its less than 5 minutes from the hospital where my doctor's office is, and where im going to be giving birth.

Plus, I LOOKED at cheaper places, and either they had alot of stairs (and Im having enough trouble with stairs NOW), and/or they werent in good neighborhoods, or they were teeny.

Id rather live somewhere I feel comfortable and spend the money on it, then somewhere cheaper that makes me nervous.

Plus, the parents are footing half of the bill - and my mother is used to the high life. So, I dont think SHE would be comfortable in many of the cheaper places.

I looked at a one bedroom in the same neighborhood, and it was $1100! This is only $100 more a month, and it has TWO BEDROOMS. The other place told me they could probably "find a pull out cot."

Im not asking my mother to sleep on a cot for 2 months - especially not when she's coming all the way out here so I dont have to stay alone in a city while Im 9 months pregnant.

Credit Card Bingo

February 1st, 2007 at 05:29 pm

New month, new tracking! Plus, Im still really really excited about the Chase card being GONEGONEGONE.

Old Navy -
was: $510
was: $445
now: $449
lim: $600

Chase -
was: $2886
was: $1374
now: $0
lim: $3000

REI -
was: $5073
was: $4873
now: $4819
lim: $5000

Discover -
was: $6698
was: $6644
now: $6630
lim: $6700

USAA -
now: $1475
lim: $1500

TOTAL -
was: $15,167
was: $14,819
now: $13,373

*dances* Slow and steady! The Old Navy card is next on my list, as it has the next highest interest rate.

So, current plan is to pay off that stupid thing as fast as possible. Its not that much, I know, but its THERE and it annoys me, because it ISNT much money. If..that makes any sense.

Ive done our taxes as far as I can so far..Im missing a W2, which means Im going to have to give in and call the Ice Cream Queen at my last job at ask where on earth it is. Im also still needing my Roth IRA info and one or two other bank related things. But, so far, we stand to get at least $1000 back, which will go towards credit cards and baby savings.

I move to Anchorage in less than 2 months! EEK!

Gone! And Good Riddence!

February 1st, 2007 at 05:21 pm

Yesterday was the most glorious of days. PAYDAY! and not only was it payday, it was payday with BACKPAY for the past four months. So, I got an extra $600, and Brandus got an extra $400.

I was very excited. We discussed sending it straight to savings for the Tadpole. We discussed using it for credit cards and paying off the Old Navy card, as Brandus bought clothes while he was in Anchorage.

So, last night, he mentions that he is going to put some money from his account towards THE BANE OF MY EXISTANCE, the Chase credit card. "Ok," says I, thinking it would be a couple of hundred dollars, which would go nicely with my already sent but not yet credited $300 for the month.

He can't do it online, because the internet is being obnoxious, so he grabs the phone and ducks into the bedroom.

When he comes out?

HE HAS PAID OFF THE WHOLE THING. $1,433.84.

PAID.

THE CHASE CARD IS NO MORE.

*dies of happy*

Now..I just need to figure out what Im going to do with that $300 I just sent in electronically...

Trying to Plan Ahead

December 30th, 2006 at 04:54 am

*clutches brain*

I was just writing a very long, involved post about trying to budget ahead for this summer, and realized that i was lost reading it. there is no chance anyone else would have understood it if i cant!

so, starting over again!

Due to where we live and the fact that I am pregnant, i will have to find a place to stay in Anchorage for about a month and a half. the doctor says I cant fly after 36 weeks, and health insurance WILL NOT help pay for room and board.

I know they wont. Because I asked. And then asked again. And then looked really confused, put on a poor pitiful expression, and asked again.

So, from about April 5th to about May 20th (ish. baby is due May 8th or so, and we wont want to get back on a plane right away), I have to find a place to stay.

a furnished place to stay. with room for my mother. for a decent price and in a nonscary part of town.

i dont even know where to start. the extended stay hotels are still really expensive, sublets for that time arent going to show up on craigslist yet, and i dont KNOW anyone in Anchorage who I can beg a bedroom off of.

any other ideas?

anyone?

anyone?



..Bueller?


then, we have to budget for this. mom is coming to stay with me, because Brandus will still be teaching, and i dont want to be by myself, 9 months pregnant, in a strange city. it is very highly possible that Mom and Daddy will pick up half to all of the cost of wherever we stay, but i cant and wont depend on that.

but, i dont even know what to predict for that kind of stay. should i guess $800 a month, which is about how much most rentals are? should i estimate out how much an extended stay place would be, just to be on the safe side?

should i run away screaming? pick up a stranger in a bar and tell them im their long lost sister?

im so confused!