Friday, January 31, 2014

Budgeting: When Things Go Wrong

So, you all know how much I love talking about budgeting and living within your means. And I think you like reading about it too! Which makes me really excited to keep talking about it. But I have a confession.

For the past three months, I have failed to follow my budget.

Gasp! Choke/Cough. Yikes! Eek! WHAT?? Not YOU.

I know. Let me explain.

It's in just one area of our finances. Can you guess? It's groceries. I have failed month after month to keep our grocery bill within my allotted amount. I mean, I've gone over it on a regular bases by not just $5 or $10 but by $50 to $150 . . . every month. I'm not even kidding.

"How is this possible?" you ask. I started using our credit card instead of just the cash in my wallet. And, I've been home a lot more with my darling little baby boy . . . eating a ton more than I used to (yes, breastfeeding is worse than pregnancy when calories are concerned). It also took me a while to get back into the grove of weekly menu planning and list making according to sales and coupons.

And it all adds up fast. There was the gluten free snacks, the cereal sale I stocked up on, the trail mix and nuts that we've added to our yogurt since I haven't been making my granola lately . . . the list goes on. Don't forget wine and beer, too!

Now, before you go off and mail me money, let me tell you that we're okay. We just had to dip into our savings a little bit. We are sad to do this as it was not how we initially planned to spend our money. But tomorrow when we sit down to do our February budget, we'll recalculate just how much we need to spend on groceries, and stick to it! We need it to be realistic, and face the fact that our needs have changed.

And that is the important part! That you adjust your budget to be realistic and accurate. Regularly. A budget is worthless if you continue to ignore the red. But if you keep your eye on things and recalculate and reallocate your funds when necessary you'll continue to be in control of your money (and your money won't control you).

When things go wrong (you overspent, or had a life change or an emergency. . . or had a spontaneous vacation in Hawaii), don't let it stop you from financial success. Sit down, look at the numbers and make cuts or additions as needed. The sooner you make the changes the better.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Baby Corner

We finally "decorated" the baby corner!

A few weeks before William was born, I stumbled across this dresser at a garage sale. It was one of those drive-by sightings where you have to actually back the car up and take a closer look. The owner was asking $40 but it was the end of the day and we offered $20 and he took it. It needed a little tlc on the bottom drawer, which my husband gladly took care of.  I had hoped it would work as a changing table too, but alas, it was too tall.

The two pieces of boy-art that say "bulldozer" and "dumptruck" were gifts from my sister -- who also found them at a garage sale when she thought she was having a boy. Sorry Miss Charlotte, they are William's now!! And the "W.B." was my own desire to do something crafty during my maternity leave, which didn't actually get done until last week.

And all the teddy bears -- my oh, my, the teddy bears this boy has! I can't wait until he decides to start toting them around!

The bookshelf to the right is his little book/toy shelf. Chris found that the weekend after William was born for $15 at a thrift shop. It was the perfect size. I had actually been scouring craiglist for weeks looking for this exact thing.

So, it isn't much of a nursery, but for now, William has his own little space in our little apartment we call home.

Monday, January 20, 2014

January Reading List

For Christmas this year, my husband's siblings bought me a Kindle. I had been using a Kindle app on my phone, but was really excited to have the real deal . . . and not have to read on a 3 inch screen! Since Christmas I have been scouring Amazon for their free downloads as well as borrowing e-books from the library. I have yet to find a book that I absolutely just had to buy -- but that's how I was with physical books too.

Anyway, I've been reading every chance I get. And I'll be honest, feeding William is usually a great time for it! (For now anyway.) Pumping also provides another great opportunity to read as long as I don't have to hold an actual book. . . but now I feel like I'm sharing too much information. Ah-hem. Sorry!

Here's a list of the books I've read this month:

  • The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
  • Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
  • The Bean Tree: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Love by the Letter by Melissa Jagears
  • Breaking Free by Beth Moore occasionally lists books that are free to download on also lists free or discounted books daily

What books have you read lately? Any recommendations?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Slow-Cooker Recipes

Since my maternity leave is over, and no one is signing up to bring me meals anymore, I've been working hard to keep my freezer stocked with frozen vegetables and slow-cooker meals. Things that could be put together quickly and without much thought so I don't have to stress about dinner if I didn't have time to plan ahead or make it to the grocery store.

Last summer, I made five slow-cooker meals for my sister that could be prepared and frozen ahead of time so that she could easily make a real meal for herself and husband after the new baby arrived. I've been making those same meals for myself this month and thought it's about time I actually share the recipes with you (now that I've tasted and approved them!).

Here's the one I just made tonight, which was so easy, I made two bags:

Pineapple Chicken Stir-Fry
 - One bag of frozen stir fry vegetables
 - One can of pineapple drained
 - Half of a bottle of sweet and sour sauce
 - Two chicken breasts

Add everything to a freezer bag (label it of course!). Freeze it. 
Thaw it out the night before you want to cook it. 
Throw the contents in a slow-cooker and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 6 hours. 
Serve with rice.

The rest of the recipes can be found here.

*I also noticed that my original post to Pinterest about those meals is my most popular post - being "pinned" 52 times! I'm telling you, slow cooker meals are the way to go!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Back to Work

My twelve week leave from work came to end on January 2nd. I had been in discussions with my employer about working from home because not only can't I afford daycare, but I wanted to stay home with my baby (but can't afford to quit either). They weren't thrilled with the idea, but were willing to let me try it and see if all my tasks really are doable from home.

So, I've now put in 7 days of work - I did ask to start out on a part-time-ish schedule, - six hours instead of eight per day. I just could not see how I could find eight free hours in my day. Six is doable, although exhausting too.

Whenever William isn't being fed or put to sleep, I am working. That may mean I put in only 10-15 minutes at a time or get as much as an hour in. I start my day when William wakes up (for the fourth time) at 6 a.m. and plug away until 6:30-7 p.m. when I can clock in that final 360th minute. Hopefully he'll start sleeping longer at night, and eating less (but larger?) meals during the day allowing me to eventually get up to full-time status.

Do any of you work from home? How do you make it work? At what point were you able to have some sort of schedule/regularity to your day?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Baby B: Three Months Old

How is it possible that we've crossed the 12-week mark and my baby is three months old and I have to go back to work? I just don't know if I'm ready for life to really start again. I love being home with William, so I'm doing all I can to make working from home work for me and my organization. But, back to William:

Yes, he is three months old. He's charming really. Just as his refusal to take the bottle or go to sleep starts to really tire you out, he puts on that gorgeous ear-to-ear smile that shows of his pink gums and dimples. And your heart melts and you regain your strength to go at it for another fifteen minutes. More rocking and shushing and walking and singing until finally, those deep, blue eyes that don't want to miss out on anything close tightly shut.

Those big blue eyes are so fascinated with the world around him now, specifically walls and ceilings. They just crack him up sometimes. His smiles are more frequent, his sounds are more cheerful and his eyes really do light up when I come into his line of vision.

He can't quite grab on to his toys yet, but he'll swing his arms in attempt to do so. His neck is getting stronger and he's getting the idea of lifting his head for tummy time, although it is still hard work.

I'm not sure of his measurements right now as he doesn't have a checkup until next month, but he's growing, that is for sure. His face is rounding out some and he has once again outgrown his clothes. We are now in the 3-6 month size as the plain-old-3-month outfits are just too short. If I were to guess, I'd say he's 25 inches and 12.5 - 13 pounds. And he loves to show you just how tall he is by stretching out his legs. No more cradling this baby!

I think he's eating better, although I still have a hard time keeping up; yes we're still supplementing with formula a few times everyday. He is starting to sleep longer -- we had two nights in a row of 5 hours! (Too bad they started at 6 p.m. - otherwise you would have two very rested parents!) No matter what time he goes to bed, when 5 a.m. comes around he is up and ready to play.

Cloth diapers are still working really well for us; we did take a week off and used disposables for our trip home. Originally we had planned to take them with us, but didn't have the space in our luggage!

William met a ton of people this month from Minnesota. Aunts and Uncles, Great Aunts and Uncles, his Great-Great Aunt, second cousins and friends. He has now met my entire family and will hopefully meet Chris's siblings this spring.