Archive for October, 2012

Preparing for Hurricane Sandy

Are you ready for hurricane Sandy? I spent the day preparing as best as I could. Here are  just a few things I did to prepare for the storm.

  • I gathered up all of the flashlights and headlamps I could find in the house. I laid them out on the dining room table along with a hodgepodge of candles and a couple of random glow sticks that were hiding in the house. It’s great to leave glow sticks in rooms like bathrooms and the kitchen. It’s an easy way to navigate the house when the lights are out.
  • I moved all of the batteries to the table so they are available if we need them. Of course I checked all of the flashlights to make certain they are working.
  • I prepared a buffalo chicken dish and marinated some chicken. The buffalo chicken can be heated on the side burner of the grill and the marinated chicken can be grilled for dinner. Last time a storm arrived we grilled chicken, but because we couldn’t run the dishwasher or run hot water our house ended up smelling of raw chicken for days. I’m hopeful that these two dishes will prevent that problem from happening this time around.
  • I boiled a dozen eggs. Hard boiled eggs will last longer than fresh ones.
  • I baked brownies. What could be better than waiting out the storm with a batch of freshly baked treats?
  • I cleaned out the fridge. Then consolidated the remaining items onto one or two shelves. I did the same thing for the freezer. I also gathered all of the ice packs I could find and built a fortress around the food in the freezer.
  • I also placed a few bottles of water in the freezer. This will help things stay cold and will ensure we have clean water if we need it.
  • I washed and dried all of the produce in the refrigerator. This way everything is clean and ready to be eaten. This is helpful if we are banned from using water. It’s also nice to know I can grab items and eat them without trying to wash and dry them in the dark.
  • I brought the medical kit upstairs just in case we need it. Hopefully we won’t.
  • My husband raked the leaves in the yard and cleared out the drains in and around the house.
  • He also washed and dried all of the laundry.
  • Before we head to bed we’ll also run the dishwasher one last time.

We are as ready as we can be. How about you? Will you be impacted by the storm and if so did you do anything to prepare for it?

October 28, 2012 at 7:05 PM 9 comments

Lack of Posts and Other Related Things

I looked back at this month’s calendar and was shocked to find how infrequently I posted on this blog. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. When my husband proposed in the spring I immediately knew I would wait well over a year to get married. I looked at the Farmer’s Almanac and choose the least rainy Sunday in October. We’ve been married for eight years now and it’s only rained once on our anniversary.

I spent a few days planning my son’s birthday party and another couple planning play dates, but otherwise it’s been a relatively quiet month for us. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary, we spent an afternoon pumpkin picking, attended football games every other weekend, swam with my son every Saturday and visited my parents every ten days or so, but all in all it’s been a quiet and delectable fall.

My son started to walk around 11 months and spent the last few weeks perfecting his gait. We’ve spent a lot of time outside enjoying the warmer than usual weather. He loves to climb up and down our front steps admiring the changing leaves and searching for acorns and fallen leaves in the yard.

I’ve tried to soak up every moment of my time with him. He’s pointing and clapping and giggling in ways that make my heart sing and melt at the very same time. Witnessing my son’s transformation in the past year makes me believe in both science and God in a way that is utterly magical.

This week he is fascinated by books. When he wakes up in the morning, (often before the sun is up), I take him downstairs in his pajamas, pull him in close and read stories with him. I usually keep a pile of books at our feet, but the other night I put all of the books away, so the next morning I pointed to the book shelf and asked my son to pick one for me to read. The book shelf is on the opposite side of the room, but wouldn’t you know that smart little fella climbed down off the sofa, walked over to the shelf, picked a story and brought it back to me. He repeated this pattern until we read almost every book on the shelf. I am so excited by his love of books and hope that his passion for reading continues.

At this stage he is still chewing on things, so I don’t want to borrow any books from the library. I’ve been trying to break him of that habit, but every once in awhile he nibbles the corner of one of them. Today I took a short trip to TJ Maxx to stock up on stories. While I love reading to him I get bored reading the same stories over and over. I shopped the clearance section of the store and brought home another ten books to add to our collection.

This was only the second time I bought books for him. I received books from just about every guest at my baby shower and received an additional box of books from a friend of the family. My sister-in-law also gave me a bunch, but many of them have real pages and at this stage I feel safer sticking with board books that can’t be tattered.

I haven’t been blogging the day to day details of my life, but I have been enjoying my days.

October 27, 2012 at 12:00 PM Leave a comment

Book Review: The Debt-Free Spending Plan

This has been a great month of reading for me. I received three books to review and just completed The Debt-Free Spending Plan: An Amazingly Simple Way to Take Control of Your Finances Once and for All.

In this book the author, JoAnneh Nagler guides you step-by-step through the process of digging yourself out of debt. Nagler was once in debt herself and shares the details that have helped her attain financial success. This isn’t a get rich quick book. If you are looking for some magical cure to erase your credit card bills you won’t find it here. What you will find is a methodical process of documenting your income and expenses that will help you live within your means.

There are three main steps to this process. First, document your income including how much you make after taxes and deductions and how often you get paid. Second, capture your fixed expenses. This includes categories like mortgage or rent and insurance payments. You must include the costs of these expenses as well as the dates they are due. Third, write down what she calls daily needs. This is everything else that doesn’t fit into the fixed expenses category. It includes everything from filling up your car with gas to getting your hair died and trimmed. I’m not exactly sure that all of the things in this category are ‘needs’, but that is how the author chooses to define them.

After writing down all of this information, Nagler asks you to subtract your total income from your fixed expenses in an effort to determine exactly how much you have left for your ‘daily needs.’ Based on her process you will be left with a line item budget for each and every non-fixed item you currently purchase.

Nagler then asks you to purchase a small pad of paper in which to write down each and every expense you encounter on a daily basis. On each page you write down how much you budgeted for a specific category, how much you just spent and how much you have remaining. If you choose to spend money in one category and have already blown your budget there you will need to subtract money from another category. So for example, if you spend $10 going out to eat, you will subtract $10 from another category like hair cuts. In your journal you would subtract $10 from hair cuts on one page and add $10 to your eating out page. On the eating out page you would write a note describing which category the money came from.

I love this idea. I think it’s a great way to remain accountable to yourself. You have to take the time and effort to write down your purchases, which helps you think deeply about where your money is going. Rather than spending money without any thought you know have to think about not only what you are buying but also what you are NOT buying. Recognizing what you are missing out on is a great way to rethink your purchases.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you love the theatre, but are constantly taking money away from your theatre budget to go out to eat or buy clothes. After reading through your journal you can begin to ask yourself if your spending habits reflect your joys and passions in life. If it were something you are truly passionate about then wouldn’t you set aside time and money to attend a show? Why are you buying clothes you don’t need and don’t find enjoyment from, when you could spend that same money on something you truly love and would remember for a long time to come?

The Debt-Free Spending Plan is a great guide for those in debt. The simple act of writing down your purchases and being accountable to your budget and yourself will surely help you rethink the way you spend money. We all claim to have passions and joys in life, but our purchases don’t always reflect these passions. This book will help you align your purchases with your passions.


October 26, 2012 at 11:49 AM Leave a comment

Book Review: 21 Days To A More Disciplined Life

I can’t remember the last time I purchased a book. After being a book fiend for as long as I can possibly remember I turned off the spigot on book buying and haven’t looked back since. These days I receive free books in exchange for reviews on my blog or borrow copies from friends.

I absolutely love to read and jump at every chance to read new books I can get. So when Money Saving Mom asked if any bloggers were interested in a free copy of her ebook I jumped at the chance to attain a copy.

Crystal Paine, the author of Money Saving Mom, has written a new book called 21 Days To A More Disciplined Life. The book steps you through the process of setting and attaining goals and focuses on topics including:

  • Prioritizing and naming your goals so that you can accomplish them faster
  • Exposing the obstacles and making a plan to conquer them
  • Breaking up insurmountable goals into more manageable pieces
  • Ending the endless trail of excuses that prevent you from meeting your goals
  • Helping you stay on task and motivated

I really enjoyed reading this book. I am a long time subscriber to Money Saving Mom and I’ve become a true fan of her blog over the years.

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life is for you if:

  • You have trouble following through.
  • You get overwhelmed by huge projects.
  • You start strong, but your passion fizzles out.
  • You are super-disciplined in a few areas of your life, but you have one or two pet areas that you just can’t get under control.
  • You check out 10 different books on discipline and organization from the library, but return all of them late.

For the next two days the book is on sale for only 99 cents. After that the price will rise to $4.99. For 99 cents I probably would’ve broken my rule about purchasing new books. It’s a good read for anyone looking to add discipline to their lives.

October 24, 2012 at 4:54 PM 2 comments

Do You Ever Feel Resentful of Your Spouse?

Okay, here’s a question for you. If you work in an industry or job you don’t particularly love, but your spouse works in one they truly enjoy do you ever feel resentful? As a software developer I often worked with men who were the primary breadwinners for their family. They worked long days in less then enjoyable jobs because the pay was high and the benefits were stable. In the mean time their wives worked in lower paying fields that they enjoyed. Some of those men seemed downright miserable and others grew to resent the ‘easier,’ more ‘enjoyable’ life they believe their wives led.

Similarly I’ve known quite a few women who want their husbands to earn more then they do. A few of them resented spouses who couldn’t bring in larger paychecks and a couple who were divorced as a result of it.

As a stay-at-home mom a lot of other women now ask me if my decision to leave the workforce was made jointly with my husband. (The answer is: “of course it was”.) The follow up question is often whether or not that is working out for me and whether my husband has grown resentful of our decision.

I’ve been asked the question often enough that I’ve started to wonder how many husbands and wives feel resentful of their spouses choice of career or lack of one. If you trudge off to work every morning feeling miserable about your job I can see how you might feel resentful of a spouse who enjoys their occupation.

For a few years I made more than my husband, for a few we earned relatively similar salaries and for the last five or so my husband earned significantly more than me, but I still earned a very nice salary. Until I decided to stay home our salaries and earning potential were never an issue. Similarly my husband earned more and enjoyed it more too, so happiness wasn’t really a factor either.

I wonder how many spouses are resentful of their spouse’s lack of income or resent their spouse’s work/life satisfaction. Until now I never gave it much thought, but a couple people have asked me about it, so it must be an issue for some.

October 16, 2012 at 1:52 PM 6 comments

Buried in a Sea of Ribbons and Paper

I subscribe to a bunch of party related blogs. I have no idea why I do this. I rarely throw parties, I’m not particularly crafty and I can’t imagine sitting around creating handmade centerpieces, gift bags and favors. Despite these facts I am absolutely mesmerized by the colorful images. In fact, while I skip over most of the blogs in my RSS reader I will without a doubt scan through the beautiful party pictures and dream of a world in which I have the patience and craftiness to attempt even one of the Martha Stewart like projects.

Until a few days ago I merely looked at the photos and thought about how cute our house would look all filled with handmade decorations. Until a few days ago the pictures and ideas remained on my computer. Until a few days ago when my husband attempted to toss a happy birthday banner into my shopping cart. “I can make something cuter than that,” I told him. It was shiny and glittery and well kind of tacky and I just didn’t want to hang it from our wall. I wanted to reproduce one of the adorable banners I saw on the Internet.

The idea seemed pretty simple. The next day I gathered up my son, my purse and a flyer from the local craft store and set out to make a homemade banner. Initially I wanted to make one from fabric, but shopping on Columbus day was not a wise idea. The line to cut fabric was ten people long and I was carrying my son in my arms. Nope, not gonna wait for that. I found a few fabric squares, which were more expensive then cutting fabric, but also ensured I could buy fabrics of varying designs. The trouble is I had no plan. I didn’t know how big the letters should be, how much fabric I would need, what colors exactly I wanted to buy. I grabbed a bunch, not knowing if it would be enough, and added three rolls of ribbon to my basket.

Oh, but on my way to the checkout lane I passed by the cake decorating section. I’m going to make a simple box cake for my son, but I hadn’t thought about decorating it. The next thing I know I’m buying cake decorating supplies, which by the way I’ve never tried to use before.

I got home and laid everything out on the dining table. That’s when I realized I’d need to iron the fabric before I can make use of it. Oh bother. And I’m not sure I bought enough of each color because I want ‘Happy’ and ‘Birthday’ in one color and my son’s name in another.

So I skip that task and move on to creating a miniature banner for his birthday cake. I google for printable shapes, dig through my old craft stash for alphabetic stickers and spend the next hour and a half making a mini-pendant banner for his cake.

Ok, looking good, although I’m not sure that the banner will actually stay in place when I stick it on the cake, but that’s a concern for another day. Back to the main ‘Happy Birthday” banner.

Hmmm, maybe I should make the banner out of paper rather than fabric. That sure seems a whole lot easier, but I don’t have enough craft paper in the house.

In the mean time I decide to head to the party store in search of plastic cutlery. I know it’s not the eco-friendly choice, but with roughly 16 friends and family members attending I don’t want to spend the evening at the kitchen sink. I leave the party store with much more than cutlery. I buy a cupcake stand, streamers, more ribbons, bottles of bubbles, cupcake holders and a whole host of other things I didn’t know I wanted until I walked into that store. Will I really put a cone shaped birthday hat on my son, who knows, but add that to the basket for another $2.

Still not sure about the fabric or paper idea I also head out to Michael’s where I buy not only paper but more ribbons and streamers in case I want to decorate the little guy’s high chair.

In total I spent roughly $50 on a bunch of paper, ribbons, fabric and party supplies that I may or may not use. Martha Stewart I am not, but I’m gonna try to make some homemade decorations for my son’s birthday. Yup. Gonna try it.

Either way I’m chalking it up to the excitement of being a first-time mom. I’m just so darn excited that my son is turning one. It’s been an amazing year and I can’t wait to celebrate the special occasion!

October 10, 2012 at 6:54 PM 4 comments

Great Deal on Halloween Costumes

I still haven’t settled on a Halloween costume yet, but I am very close to pulling the trigger on the one I found on tonight.

Right now they are offering 20% off all costumes, decor and party supplies when you use the coupon code bizzare. If you are a ShopRunner member, (I signed up for a free membership last year), you will receive free two day shipping. If you don’t have a ShopRunner membership you can still receive free shipping if you spend over $49.

I researched prices on eBay and found that many costumes sell for roughly 60% of retail prices, so I’m considering buying this one and then auctioning it off next year. That means I have to make sure my son doesn’t stain it, which means he won’t be able to eat or drink anything while wearing it. Hmmm, that task might be a little too difficult to ensure.

October 7, 2012 at 9:07 PM 1 comment

Link Love on a Rainy Sunday Morning

As my son was taking his morning nap I took a little time to weed through my RSS reader and glance at the Washington Post. Here are a few favorites:

Also check out this quiz to help you pick your presidential candidate.


October 7, 2012 at 10:31 AM Leave a comment

My Son’s First Birthday

Without a doubt this year has gone faster than any other. I cannot believe that my son is about to turn one. It seems like I was pregnant just yesterday. It’s amazing to watch our little guy develop and grow and I am unbelievably happy that I’ve been able to stay at home with him this first year.

As his birthday approaches I wonder if I should buy him a special birthday gift. For the time being he seems perfectly content with the toys he owns. They consist of a random assortment of hand-me-downs from former coworkers and family members.  I’ve only purchased one or two toys since the little tike made his way in our world. It’s been absolutely fabulous to get so many free toys and books for him.

As he gets older some toys go into the not-so-little anymore box and new toys make their way into his play space. It’s crazy how fast children outgrow things. He’s moved away from stuffed animals and rattles to cause-and-effect toys and loves to push and pull on buttons and gears to make them move and sing.

Of course, he’s also more than happy to play with a cardboard box, a set of old pots and pans and a large wooden spoon. He also loves exploring the yard, crawling though the grass and discovering leaves and flowers along his way.

As his birthday approaches I wonder if I should buy him a special gift. I thought about buying him a child sized kitchen or a tricycle that I can use to push him around the neighborhood. Then again I know he’s pretty content with the toys he already owns. I also know he’ll get a ton of toys from his grandparents and aunts and uncles. Actually I’m hoping his aunt and uncle will provide him with a savings bond. That’s what we used to do when their children were young.

So what do you think? Did you buy a special gift for your little one’s first birthday? Do you think I should buy something for our little guy?

October 4, 2012 at 10:13 PM 4 comments

Certainly Not a Frugal Decision

I want to thank everyone who commented on last week’s post Struggling to Spend Money on Myself. I’ve taken a lot of time over the past few days to consider my options. I thought long and hard about what I like to do, what I don’t like to do and everything in between. Although I need things like new clothes or new shoes from time to time I’m really not a big shopper. I also hate to have clutter in my house so the idea of buying new stuff to fill our home doesn’t really thrill me.

I quickly realized that I’d prefer to spend money on experiences and services rather than objects. I sat on the couch, closed my eyes and asked myself a question. What do I want this money to bring me? My first thought: relaxation. I want the money to ease my stress and worries. I want it to make me a happier, well rested, relaxed individual.

So in response to the feedback and my own desire for change I’ve decided to hire a cleaning crew to dust, mop, vacuum, scrub the tile in my bathrooms and do whatever else it takes to make my home shine. Given the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom who spends the majority of her waking hours in and around the house this is certainly not the frugal decision, but it is nonetheless the decision I’ve chosen to make.

While I love to organize and declutter I absolutely hate to clean it. I’ve splurged on a cleaning crew a handful of times over the past few years, (usually buying discounted service through Groupon or Living Social), but I’ve never consistently hired anyone to clean our house.

I’m not sure it fits the bill for ‘fun money’, but it will definitely help me feel more at ease and relaxed. While I don’t mind cleaning the dishes and wiping down the counter-tops I absolutely hate cleaning bathroom tiles and scrubbing toilets. We may keep our 1950s bathroom decor for the rest of our lives, but at least the grout won’t be dirty and the tub will be sparkly and white. My husband and I aren’t particularly messy people, but let’s face it dust and dirt accumulate pretty quickly in a house and I haven’t been happy playing with my son in a dirty, dusty house.

I’ve hired a cleaning crew to clean the main two levels of our house every three weeks. I thought about using them monthly, but I think things will get pretty dirty in a month.

Since house cleaning benefits the entire family and not just me, I also plan to schedule one massage a month and I’ll use the money I earn from this blog, eBay sales and other random forms of income to pay for it. (Thanks commenters for that great suggestion!)

It’s not a frugal decision, but it sure feels good to make it. What do you think?

October 3, 2012 at 11:35 AM 10 comments


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