Sunday, January 31, 2016

Goals Update: January 2016

January was a very productive month in the decluttering and organizing area.  I am so happy that I have been able to cross some things off my household project list  -- it means that I am that many steps closer to crossing that goal off this list!  Overall I'm very pleased with my progress for only one month in.  Here's how things went goal-wise this month...

  • Lose 20 lbs (about 1.5 lbs a month) - I have lost zero pounds so far.  I'm okay with this since I am only 1 month in.
  • Exercise 292 days - In January I exercised 20 out of 31 days.  I'd say that I am off to an amazing start for not exercising very much in the past.  I also did not start working on this goal until the 5th, so that was 4 days right there that I didn't exercise.  I usually ride my exercise bike and do some stretches while Howard is napping, and then I can also grab a quick shower before he wakes up.  There are days when I am very sore, but there are also days when I feel amazing.  The amazing days are what keep me going and make this en-devour feel worthwhile!
  • Drink at least 70 oz of water everyday - I do great with this the days that I work.  The days when I am at home all day find me drinking more hot tea than usual.  I am hoping that I can do better with this goal in February. 
  • Coupon and deal shop to stick to my $350/month budget - I shared my budget update for January here.  If you click over, you can see all of the great things I was able to stock-up on while still staying under budget!  We did a freezer/pantry challenge in January, so the only purchases I had to make were things to round out our meals, or make something into a meal.  This left me with a LOT of leeway to stock-up on things at rock-bottom prices!  Like diapers.  And lotion.  And vitamins.  And, you get the picture. 
  •  Earn at least 6 - $25 Amazon gift card through Swagbucks - I earned my first $25 Amazon gift card for 2016 this month.  I really didn't think I be able to get another one so quickly; however, I have Joe on board now.  He will ask if I've reached enough for my daily bonus when we go to bed at night, and if I haven't, he'll let the app run while we get ready for bed, and chat, and read.  Little things like that really add up apparently. 
  • List at least 10 things per month online - In January I tested the waters of the Facebook selling groups.  I listed bras, swim trunks, purses, chair cushions, and a few other things.  All totaled I listed 31 items in January and sold 9 of them.  Pretty good for a first go-round.  In February I plan to list some sewing patterns on Ebay as well as some books on Amazon.
  • Set up at 6 Flea Markets/Shows to sell our wares - We were suppose to set up at a Flea Market on the 30th, however, with all the snow the show has been postponed until February 20th.  So, we will set up next month and get this goal started!
  • Completely declutter the entire house - I made a LOT of progress on this goal in January.  I usually start with the bedroom, move into the hall, then do the living room, bathroom, and kitchen, ending in the nursery/office.  I do that room last because I know the other 5 won't be as involved, and I can get them done quickly.  But then, by the time I get to the nursery/office, I have usually run out steam, or time.  This year I decided to go backwards, kind of.  I am putting my primary focus on the nursery/office, and working on the other areas as time allows.  I can only work in the nursery/office in the mornings, because of Howard's daily afternoon nap (which I am ever so grateful for).  This leaves nap-time for couponing, blogging, OR quiet decluttering.  While I can't declutter my squeaky kitchen cabinets while he is sleeping, I can go through a basket or two in the living room or some dresser drawers in the bedroom.  I think that this tactic is going to work well for me over the next couple months, and allow me to get this goal crossed off sooner.  As for my progress, I have finished the nursery/office closet, desk area, and chest of drawers.  I am also halfway through our bedroom, and the living room.  
  • Finish my 2016 project list - I have my project list update posted separately.  However, I will share that I was able to cross off quite a few items, mostly decluttering, but I think it's best to get that out of the way before I start some of the larger projects.  I also managed to do some painting during the blizzard!
  • Post at least 3 times a week - I did amazingly well with this goal during January.  I posted at least 3 times per week.  All totaled I shared 17 posts in January, which averages to 4.25 a week!
  • Do a 31 day series in October - Not there yet.  I have been working on some ideas in my blogging journal though. 
  • Set up a Facebook page for my blogDidn't happen in January, but I have this at the top of my list for February.  It seems so simple, so I want it crossed off quick.
How is everyone else doing with their goals?
Anything new or different you are trying this year?
Share some of your goals in the comments...

Saturday, January 30, 2016

January 2016 Budget Update

January was the first month on our new increased grocery budget, and it went AMAZINGLY well!  In fact, I was under budget, something that wasn't happening in 2015.  I also got a BJ's membership for half-price in December, and used it to pick up a few things this month.  This helped to save some dough, but the key is to only buy things you regularly use, and that beat the grocery store price.  We also did a freezer/pantry challenge this month to help clean out the odds and ends that had been accumulating over the holidays.  We have almost eaten enough to defrost the chest freezer, and the food has been pretty good as well.  Overall, January was a snowy busy month, but we ate and shopped well, as you can see below...
  • Week #1: $70.64 oop, Earned $5 ECB's, $9 Saving Star Rebate, and $1 Find and Save Rebate
  • Week #2: $98.52 oop, Earned $14 ECB's, $0.50 Saving Star Rebate, $0.25 Ibotta Rebate, and $6.66 Find and Save Rebate
  • Week #3: $59.71 oop, Earned $10 ECB's, and $0.50 Ibotta Rebate
  • Week #4: $85.49 oop, Earned $14 ECB's, $1.50 Checkout 51 Rebate, $0.50 Ibotta Rebates, $25 Amazon Gift Card from Swagbucks, and $0.71 Find and Save Rebates
Total OOP: $314.36
Total Earned: $88.62
Total Remaining from January: $35.64

Weekly Spending Report: 01/24-30/2016

Because of the massive blizzard, I missed my usually shopping on Sunday, and didn't get to the stores until Tuesday.  But because the roads were still not in great shape, I needed to take the suburban, and because I won't drive that boat-of-a-car, I also needed to take my husband, and son.  So needless to say, my shopping this week was anything but normal, but that happens sometimes.  We made it through the snow warm and with full bellies, and then restocked afterwards.  There were some great deals on things I needed at CVS, and I picked up the usual needed items at ALDI, but Giant was seriously lacking in the deal department.  I wasn't even going to go, but I thought that with the crazy snow storm we had, there might be meat markdowns, and I can always use marked-down meat!  Unfortunately there were no meat deals to be had.  I did however score some $0.29 diaper cream, and got a good price on some wipes using electronic coupons on my card along with paper coupons.  I also wrangled my husband into stopping at the Dollar Tree since I couldn't go Saturday and I needed some more of the AWESOME baskets below for my organizing projects.  All in all it was a good trip, even if it was a little crazy.  Here's how my spending went down this LAST week of January...
  • Tuesday's CVS Trip: $11.44 oop, Earned $14 ECB's ($2 Venus Razor, $2 Rain Check, $10 Benefiber), $1.50 Checkout 51 Rebate (Venus Razor), and $0.22 Find and Save Rebate
  • Tuesday's ALDI Trip: $13.07 oop, Earned $0.13 Find and Save Rebate
  • Tuesday's Giant Trip: $25.33 oop, Earned $0.25 Ibotta Rebate (Bacon)
  • Tuesday's Dollar Tree Trip: $13.66 oop, Earned $0.36 Find and Save Rebate
  • Tuesday's BJ's Trip: $18.81 oop, Earned $0.25 Ibotta Rebate (Hot Dogs) 
  • Saturday's Dollar Tree Trip: $3.18 oop (2 newspapers, and 1 package of Tic Tacs)
  • Earned $25 Amazon Gift card from Swagbucks!
Total OOP: $85.49
Total Earned: $41.71
Total Remaining from January: $35.64 (added to February's money)

Linked to I heart Publix, and many more!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Menu Plan Monday: 01/25/2016

Because we are doing a freezer/pantry challenge this month, I made a month-long menu plan on the 1st.  I haven't had to do much editing to it with the exception of leftovers, until this week.  Since we now have almost 3 feet of snow outside our door, my regularly scheduled shopping has been put on hold.  Normally that wouldn't matter, but since we've been eating things down in the house, and it's the last week of the month, most meals I planned this week needed at least one thing from the store to make them happen.  We also need to spend some time at Joe's Grandfather's house this week, and set up for, and sell at a flea market this weekend.  So, we don't have a lot of variety in the menu this week, but until I can get to the store for some fill-ins, we will at least be fed.  Here's what cooking in the Rogers' household this week...
  • Breakfasts: Bagels, Granola Bars, Pop-Tarts, Eggs and Toast
  • Lunches: Leftovers, Tuna or PB and J Sandwiches, Canned Soups
  • Dinners:
    • Sunday - Frozen Pizza
    • Monday - Homemade Orange Chicken, Jasmine Rice
    • Tuesday - Crock-pot Pork Tips in Mushroom Gravy, Jasmine Rice
    • Wednesday - Take-out (we will be gone all day at Joe's Grandfathers house)
    • Thursday - Mac and Cheese, Hot dogs
    • Friday - Frozen Pizza (setting up for a flea market all day)
    • Saturday - Take-out (selling at a flea market all day)
 For more AWESOME Menu Plans, visit Org Junkie and Little Bits of Granola!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Pantry Challenge Week #3 Update

Pantry Challenge 2016 | Good Cheap Eats

Week #3 of the freezer/pantry challenge went well.  We ate well, and I created a little more empty space in the freezers!  I think that by the beginning of February we'll be able to defrost the chest freezer!!!
  • Breakfasts: Granola Bars, Muffins, Bagels, Pop-Tarts, Eggs, and Toast
  • Lunches: Leftovers, Sandwiches (PB and J, and Tuna), Pizza, Misc. Frozen TV Dinners
  • Dinners: 
    • Sunday - Leftovers (clean out the fridge)
    • Monday - Crock-pot BBQ Chicken, Rice Pilaf, Broccoli
    • Tuesday - Leftovers
    • Wednesday - Chinese Take-out
    • Thursday - Leftover Chinese Food
    • Friday - Beefy Mac and Cheese (homemade Hamburger Helper)
    • Saturday - Pizza
 How is everyone else doing in their pantry challenge efforts?  
Create any new family favorites?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Weekly Spending Report: 01/17-23/2015

This week I got the treat to go shopping BY MYSELF!  As in alone, solo, singularly!  It was amazing to be able to concentrate on the deals, and spend some time browsing the clearance without hearing whining from my son, or husband.  I also spent less, which usually happens when I am alone.  I should really shop solo more often.  Any way, we needed diapers, again - someone is in the process of outgrowing size 4s.  I also stocked up on lotion, toilet paper, and first aid supplies (which are hard to get great deals on).  Overall I am pleased with what I was able to purchase, and got some great deals in the process.  Here's how the week went spending-wise...
  • Sunday's CVS Trip: $14.66 oop, Earned $10 ECB's
  • Sunday's ALDI Trip: $16.09 oop
  • Sunday's Giant Trip: $28.96 oop, Earned $0.50 Ibotta Rebate for Zone Perfect Bar

Total OOP: $59.71
Total Earned: $10.50
Total Remaining for January: $121.13

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pantry Challenge Week #1 and #2 Update

Pantry Challenge 2016 | Good Cheap Eats

The first week started out wonderful; I got a LOT of decluttering accomplished, we ate some new meals, and I got caught up on my house work.  But by the end of the week I was dragging.  I worked on Thursdays and Fridays, so I got behind on housework again, and ended up getting pizza one night.  But I'm okay with all that.  Saturday was a 'catch-back-up' day, so I am feeling good about how we started the second week.
The second week was crappy all around.  I caught some kind of bug, and Howard's ears and tummy have been bothering him.  I had to work extra to prepare and have a meeting, plus my regular Thursday and Friday schedule.   But I am happy to say we only got take out one night, and that was the night of my meeting.  Plus we've already cleaned out one of the 3 freezers!  The extra refrigerator freezer in our laundry room now only houses butter, margarine, ice packs, some shredded cheeses, and some spare candies.  There is SO much space in there it's crazy!  I have been horrible about taking pictures the past two weeks, but maybe I can make up for that the second half of the month?
Here's what we've been eating during our pantry challenge for the 1st half of January...

Breakfasts: Joe - Pop-Tarts, Laura - Bagel Sandwiches with 1 Egg and 1 slice of Cheese on them or a buttered Cinnamon Raisin Bagel, Howard - Blueberry Mini Muffins or an Apple 'Nutrigrain' bar from ALDI

Lunches: Leftovers, Mac and Cheese with Hot dogs, Soups, Misc Frozen TV Dinners, Tuna Salad Sandwiches

1/1 - Pizza
1/2 - Hot dogs, Mac and Cheese
1/3 - Leftovers
1/4 - Leftovers
1/5 - Crock-pot BBQ Chicken Breasts (new Recipe), Crock-pot Mashed Potatoes
1/6 - Alfredo Pasta, Garlic Bread
1/7 - Leftovers
1/8 - Pizza Take-out
1/9 - Crock-pot Meatloaf, Tater Tots
1/10 - Leftovers
1/11 - Crock-pot Pork Loin and Sauerkraut, Crock-pot Mashed Potatoes
1/12 - Chinese Take-out (work meeting night)
1/13 - Misc. Canned Soups from the Pantry and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
1/14 - Crock-pot Chicken Fajitas, Mexican Rice
1/15 - Crock-pot Meatballs and Sauce, Pasta, Garlic Bread
1/16 - Dobbin House for our 1/2 anniversary dinner (without Howard!)

Is anyone else doing a freezer or pantry challenge in January?  How is it going?  Have you found any weird or strange things while cleaning out?  
Let me know in the comments!

Menu Plan Monday: 01/18/2016

When planning this week's menu, I tried to keep two things in mind: One, we have a super busy week ahead of us, and two, we need to continue cleaning out the freezers and pantries.  These two key points meant that the crock-pot was going to get a LOT of use this week, and I need to re-inventory the freezers and pantries so I know what I still have to work with.  Overall the plan includes things that we like to eat, and uses up some of the pieces of this and that from the freezer.  Here's what's cookin' this week...
  • Breakfasts: Bagels, Granola Bars, Pop-Tarts, Eggs with Toast, and Muffins
  • Lunches: Pizza, PB and J or Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Leftovers, Misc. Frozen Meals, and/or Canned Soups with Crackers
  • Dinners:
    • Sunday - Leftovers to clean out the fridge
    • Monday - Chinese Take-out
    • Tuesday - Leftover Chinese food
    • Wednesday - Crock-pot BBQ Chicken, Rice Pilaf, Broccoli and Cheese
    • Thursday - Crock-pot Sliders on Rolls, Baked Onion Rings, Veggies and Dip
    • Friday - Crock-pot Pork Roast, Crock-pot Baked Potatoes, Broccoli
    • Saturday - Leftover Homemade Mac and Cheese (from the freezer), Ham or Hot Dogs
For more AWESOME Menu Plans, visit Org Junkie!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Weekly Spending Report: 01/10-16/2016

This week I spent a little more than I like to -- diapers, I'm talking to you.  Anyway, I am still pleased with what I was able to get for the price.  I was complaining to Joe about the price I paid for diapers at CVS, because I have gotten them much cheaper, and even with two transactions, I still paid more than normal.  Joe said "Laura, do you realize that most moms would kill to get that price on diapers."  Thank you to my husband for the reality check; I need those sometimes, reality checks that is.  So, without further ado, this week's totals...
  • Sunday's CVS Trip: $32.02 oop, Earned $14 ECB's, $1.16 Find and Save Rebate
  • Sunday's ALDI Trip: $32.16 oop (included but not pictured are 8 gallons of H2O), Earned $5 Find and Save Rebate for purchasing $25 or more
  • Sunday's Giant Trip: $28.16 oop, earned & 0.50 Saving Star Rebate for the All detergent, and $0.25 Ibotta Rebate for the Marie's Dip
  • Saturday's Dollar Tree Trip: $6.18 oop, Earned $0.50 Find and Save Rebate
Total OOP: $98.52
Total Earned: $21.41
Total Remaining for January: $180.84

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Goals for 2016

After having some time to reflect on the goals I had set last year, and the things I want to accomplish this year, I was finally able to come up with a decent list.  I never have a problem thinking up things I want to accomplish for the year, or ways to stretch myself in one way or another, but I always struggle to set goals in a measurable manner.  This year I have tried to set some goals in a numeral-way, giving me an exact number that I need to reach in order to cross the item off my list.  I felt that last year's goals, although better than the previous year's, were still hard to measure in completeness.  I thought that maybe numbers would help.  We'll see, if not, I can always try something different next year. 
 I also realized that my work schedule, once it picks back up in April, is fairly nuts.  This year I will have a regular, set work schedule and days off, but I still work more than I am at home.  Which is fine, I love what I do, but it means there isn't a whole lot of spare time for a long list of to-do's and goals.  This meant I really needed to keep my goal list focused and simple.  I know that some people pick a word for their year, and I didn't really go into my goal-making think-tank session with that in mind.  However, after finishing my list, there is definitely an overlying theme apparent -- simplifying and betterment.  As you will see below, I really want 2016 to be the year I get my house, blog, finances, and self in order.  Most of the goals I set are either focused on making something better (losing weight, regular blog posts), or making something more simple (decluttering, finances).  And that is really what I want to be focused on in 2016, so that I can enter 2017 a better person with a more simplified way of life.
I broke my goals in 4 main categories: personal, financial, household, and blogging.  Then I picked 2 or three items off of the big list I brain-dumped for each of those categories, and came up with this...

  • Lose 20 lbs - I accomplished this in 2015, but I definitely have more to lose.  I am hoping to lose more than this over the course of the year, but I know that 20 lbs is definitely doable.
  • Exercise 292 days - This is one of those number-oriented goals I was talking about earlier.  I knew if I set the goal of exercising every day I was just setting myself up for failure.  You and I both know that there are some days it just isn't going to happen, because life just happens -- you get horribly ill, or your kid does, you end up working overtime because of some 'surprise' project that needs to be done tomorrow and no one told you about it until today, a family member needs help with whatever and they call you, etc, etc.  I took vacation days into account, and a smattering of other times when I probably will be otherwise busy.  My goal really is to meet this number and then exceed it. 
  • Drink at least 70 oz of water everyday - I have a large mug that measures the ounces for me.  Basically I just need to drink this mug full of water twice, and then I can move onto hot tea or a diet soda.  I was working towards this at the end of 2015, it's a stretch, but it can be done.  I try to finish my water by a little after lunch, and then treat myself to an afternoon diet soda.  Sounds a little crazy I know, but it works for me, and anyone who has ever dieted will tell you, you do what works.
  • Coupon and deal shop to stick to my $350/month budget - I raised our grocery budget to $350 a month this year instead of $300.  I spent some time looking over my purchases for the year, and found that I went over budget several months.  I looked closer at my spending those months, and found that usually Howard was having a growth spurt and eating me out of house and home, and I purchased diapers at least once.  So, since Howard is not going to stop growing or eating anytime soon, and I doubt he will be fully potty trained this year, I decided it was in everyone's best interest to raise the budget.  Plus, with my increase in work hours, we have the money available to add to the budget.  I will still need to watch the sales and coupon to make this happen, but I know it's possible if I try.
  •  Earn at least 6 - $25 Amazon gift card through Swagbucks - Since we have gotten our new I-phones and have the Swagbucks app running every day on both, we earn a crazy amount of swagbucks.  This means it doesn't take me as long to earn gift cards.  I still do the daily poll, NOSO offers, and daily crave everyday, and usually earn something for searching the web a couple of times a week.  It all really adds up.  There will probably be months when I earn more swagbucks than others, that is why I included a total number for the year.
  • List at least 10 things per month online - I have discovered Facebook selling pages, and they seem much easier to use than eBay, etc.  These pages do best for larger items, and there is always a lot of baby/kid stuff selling.  So, I'm going to test the waters, as well as continue listing books on Amazon, and misc. higher-priced items on eBay.  I fell very short last year in selling online; I'd like to make up for that in 2016.  There will be months when I declutter and find 20 things to list, and then there will be months when I will be lucky to list 10 books from my ever growing pile, but I feel like 10 is a reasonable and attainable goal for each month.
  • Set up at 6 Flea Markets/Shows to sell our wares - Joe and I are flea market dealers in our down time.  We mostly sell antiques, collectibles, and tools, with some toys and household items thrown in for good measure.  Joe has been selling with his grandparents for years, but as they have aged, we have taken over the 'business' so to speak.  I love it, and have a super fun time doing it - you get to meet such interesting people, who collect all kinds of things!  Plus, we can make decent money buying and selling.  With living at the museum though, we don't have the freedom to do a show every weekend, 6 is about our limit.  
  • Completely declutter the entire house - I put this on my list every year and pretty much spend January-March working on it.  I plan to do that again this year.  It really sets a clutter-free tone for the house, and it helps me to get refocused after the holidays, and centered before I head back to a regular work schedule.
  • Finish my 2016 project list - I am going to publish this list separately, as this post is already a bit wordy.  I plan to post an update on this list monthly, just like I already do for my yearly goals and budget.  There is a LOT on it, but I feel like I really need to cross that stuff off so I can move on to more fun projects.
  • Post at least 3 times a week - I started last year blogging amazingly well, and my stats were up, and I was feeling great about the whole thing.  Then I went back to work, and I had so many things tearing me away from writing, and I barely got any time to blog at all.  I gave myself a lot of leeway in my blogging goals last year, which didn't work for me at all.  I need to be held accountable, I need a goal number.  I feel like 3 posts a week is reasonable.  Most blogs I follow do not post everyday, unless they have sponsors, and/or staff.  Since it's just little ole me, I feel like 3 will stretch me, but should actually be manageable, even when I go back to work.
  • Do a 31 day series in October - I really enjoyed blogging daily, and sharing the things that I am thankful for in my 31 days series in October last year.  I am also really glad it was only for 31 days.  Posting everyday is a little stressful.  But it was still fun, and I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment I got from finishing that goal.  I have a different theme already picked for this year, and I have already started brainstorming posts for October!
  • Set up a Facebook page for my blogThis is pretty self-explanatory, and probably should have been done eons ago.  This will most likely be one of the first goals I cross off this year with my husbands help of course.
How is everyone else doing with their goal-setting?
Anything new or different you are trying this year?
Share some of your goals in the comments...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Weekly Spending Report: 01/03-09/2016

This week I tried really hard not to buy items for our stockpile, since we are doing a freezer/pantry challenge this month.  I had planned to continue my stockpile shopping at CVS any way, since it usually doesn't involve food stuffs, but I really wanted to curb the rest of my extra spending.  Overall I did well.  Since I only buy meat on sale or marked down, that means that when it's on sale I need to buy it.  This week was chicken.  I'm am still really happy with my spending this week, and I am hoping that I can do as well the rest of the month.  Here's how it breaks down this week...
  • Monday's CVS Trip: $2.42 oop, Earned $5 ECB's, and $9 SavingStar Rebates
2 Dove Dry Shampoos $5.29 ea - $1.29 ea Sale - $3/2 Manufacturer Coupon (MC) +
2 Tresemme Dry Shampoos $6.79 ea - $1.79 ea Sale - $1/1 MC x 2 - $2.50/$10 Hair Care CVS Coupon - $5 ECB's when you buy (wyb) $15 - $3 Saving Star Rebate wyb 2 Dove Hair care - $1 Saving Star Rebate wyb 1 Tresemme Hair Care x 2 = 4/$0.50 (after ECB's and Rebates)
1 Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark $5.29 - $3.97 clearance = $1.32
1 Lindt Truffles $5.29 - $3.97 clearance = $1.32
2 bags Hershey Kisses $4.39 ea - $3.30 ea clearance - $1/2 CVS coupon = 2/$1.18 or $0.59 ea
5 photos $1.45 - $0.31 from 30% off CVS coupon = $1.14
2 Centrum Gummy Vitamins $7.99 ea - Buy One Get One 50% off $4 - $4/1 MC x 2 - $4 Saving Star Rebate = FREE + $0.02 Money-maker!
+ $0.98 Tax
- $18 ECB's used to Pay
Total OOP: $2.42, Earned back $5 ECB's and $9 Saving Star Rebates
  • Monday's ALDI Trip: $21.64 oop
  • Monday's Giant Trip: $33.04 oop
  • Saturday's Dollar Tree Trip: $13.54 oop, Earned $1 Find and Save Rebate for purchasing $7 or more
Total OOP: $70.64
Total Earned: $14
Total Remaining for January: $279.36

Linked to Couponaholic, I heart Publix, and many more... 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Goals Wrap Up for 2015

  December was a mad house -- I worked 16 days straight, served 14 seatings of tea, and the tree didn't go up until December 9th, the latest ever.  However, even with all the craziness at work, I still managed to send out Christmas cards this year, with family photos in them, get the house cleaned and decorated, and baked just as many cookies as any other year.  I was just a little impressed with myself, not pridefully impressed, but impressed.  We had both of our families over for lunch on Christmas Eve, 12 in all.  That's a lot for our tiny apartment, but the meal was great and we all got to enjoy each others company.  This year Howard really enjoyed opening his presents, and ours, and any other presents he could get his hands on.  Even though December wasn't a huge month for goals, it feels good to finish off the year with so many things crossed out.  The goals that I marked in blue, and will be carried over to next year in one form or another.  Here's how the goal area played out in 2015...
  1. De-clutter the whole house in January, February, and March -- Done!  I am planning to keep this goal for 2016.  It really helps to set a simplified, clutter-free tone for the year.
  2. Do a Deep-Spring, and Deep-Fall Clean in March and November  As well as keep up with my weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly cleaning chores. -- Done! 
  3. Paint the Windows/Sills/Trim in the Kitchen and Nursery -- This I plan to do in March of 2016.
  1. Write a 'love letter' to Joe each month - Done!  This was a goal that really stretched me, but I feel as though it really helped to better Joe and I's relationship, which was the point.  
  2. Take a trip to Maine in June with the hubby, and Howard. -- Done!
  3. Take a Trip to Ocean City in August -- Done!  We had an amazing time on both of these trips, and we are looking forward to getting to do 2 more in 2016!
  4. Get together with family at least once a month -- Done!  We got together with my family and Joe's family on Christmas Eve, had a lovely meal, and opened lots of presents.  Getting together every month is hard with everyone's work and school schedules, so I think in 2016 I am going to shoot for every other month.  It's just more reasonable.
  5. Plan and Execute Howard's 1st Birthday Party -- Done!  I really want to get going on Howard's 2nd birthday soon; it will be here before I know it. 
  1. Have 2 Freezer/Pantry Challenges (January and July), post updates on the blog, and defrost the chest freezer -- Done!  I love this goal!  It really keeps me accountable in using up weird things that I shove in the freezer because I don't want to waste it and throw it out, like 2 spoons of green beans, or 1 cup of Chili. 
  2. Post my Menu Plan, and Weekly Spending Report every week, along with at least 1 other post per week.  This may be an update, a reveal, a recipe, a shopping trip, some Aldi Deals, or a frugal find. -- I am setting my goals for blogging a little differently in 2016.  I did successfully post my weekly spending report every week, my monthly goals and budget check-in every month, and in the fall I started doing a frugal finds post for the month as well.  I feel good about these things, but I really want to get back to regular posting.  I also need to set my goals in a more easily measured way.  This year's goal left things fairly open ended, and gave me too much leeway. 
  3. Plan and execute a 31 days post for October. -- Done!  This was a LOT of work.  It requires an immense amount of time and dedication to post everyday, even if it is for only 31 days.  To get a head start, I have already started planning out next years 31 days series -- I'm just a little excited about it.  
  1. Lose at least 20 lbs -- Done!  I lost a total of 22 lbs in 2015.  I am planning to keep this goal on again for 2016.  I hope that I can lose at least another 20 pounds!
  2. Drink plenty of water, eat healthy, and do exercise of some kind everyday. -- Done!  This is something that I have been able to check off each month.  I have also been doing more walking with Howard, so that is definitely exercise in my book!
  1. Do at least 5 Flea Markets throughout the year, and list at least bi-monthly on Amazon/Facebook Yard Sale. -- We are done with flea markets for this year, but I still haven't managed to find the time to list anything online yet.  This is probably something that will not happen until January when I have some time off from work.  Unfortunately this is something that requires nap-time quiet and concentration, which is dwindling.   
  2. Earn Swagbucks everyday by completing the daily poll, toolbar log-in, and NOSO offers daily.  (Try to earn $10 a month) -- I 'm almost up to another $25 gift card, having the app makes a world of difference!  I did complete the other earning points daily throughout 2015, it just takes a LOT longer to add up to $25 gift card to earn the discount than it did for the $5 gift cards.  
  3. Set a monthly budget, and coupon and deal shop as needed to stay within our budget. -- I did set a monthly budget for the year, and I did coupon and deal shop, I just didn't stay within my budget.  Actually I was pretty balanced out until December when everything went to hell in a hand basket.  But, some times that happens, the hand basket and all.  I'm not too worried about it; I've learned my lesson, raised the budget to help feed and diaper my every growing child, and am ready to move onto 2016.
  4. Put at least an extra $100 a month on Joe's Credit Card starting in May -- I am crossing this off, because I did do this every month but December, because Christmas.  I am super happy with the progress we have been able to make with this goal, our monthly minimum has never been so low!
  1. Scan the huge-a** box of photos we have had since my mom died three years ago, and get them sorted to give to people, as well as put the ones I decide to keep in albums -- I am not putting this on my goal list for 2016.  I have a LOT of other things that actually need to get done.  It's going on the back burning for now; I'm sure when I get pregnant again and get the nesting bug up my butt, it will happen.
  2. Continue to work on Howard's baby book  -- Done!  I have a few pictures I want to add, but I am calling it done.  It's ready to be packed away in his memento suitcase.
  3. Try something new at least once a month and blog about it.  I have a LOT of new recipes and crafts I want to try -- This is something that I really want to do in 2016.  I miss getting to try new things and share them with all of you. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 Yearly Budget Report

This year was super busy with my new work schedule.  That meant that I didn't have the time to put into couponing, planning, and budget shopping like I normally would.  This equated to a lot of spending that I probably would not have had otherwise.  Also adjusting to life with a 1 year old was interesting this year.  By the time August came, he had figured out that he likes to eat, especially meats and dairy, and he eats a LOT.  But, overall I think the year went fairly well budget-wise.  Howard is eating more, wearing larger (and thus more expensive diapers), and dirty a lot more laundry.  So for 2016 I have planned to raise our monthly budget to $350.  This should create a buffer and allow for these extra expenses.  I don't think that I will use this every month, but some months I am sure I will be glad to have it.  Here is how our budget broke down over the course of 2015.  If you click a month, you can go to that month's page, and click on a week # and it will take you to my shopping trips for that week.  If that interests you -- I always like to see what people were able to get and for how much.  Any way, the monthly break-down for 2015...
  • January: $286.80 oop, Earned $67.26 ($13.20 under budget!  I added this to Feb.'s money)
  • February: $310.34 oop, Earned $44.09 ($2.86 remaining, added to March's money)
  • March: $270.43 oop, Earned $50.04 ($32.46 remaining, added to April's money)
  • April: $349.84 oop, Earned $61.29 (Zero Remaining)
  • May: $274.73 oop, Earned $30.44 ($6.07 Remaining, added to May's money)
  • June: $298.17 oop, Earned $65.65 ($8.76 Remaining, added to June's money)
  • July: $317.30 oop, Earned $62.00 (Zero Remaining)
  • August: $300.74 oop, Earned $19.25 (Zero Remaining)
  • September: $297.66 oop, Earned $72.50 ($2.34 Remaining, added to October's money)
  • October: $298.54 oop, Earned $36.50 ($3.80 Remaining, added to November's money)
  • November: $296.91 oop, Earned $89.05  ($6.89 Remaining, added to December's money)
  • December: $409.48 oop, Earned $71.64 (Zero Remaining - over budget)
Total OOP: $3,710.94
Total Earned: $669.71
$110.91 over budget for year.  No bueno.  However, this was pretty much just from December.  It seems that the rest of the year balanced itself out.

December's Budget Update

December was a CRAZY month.  We hosted 12 for Christmas dinner, which is a LOT for our little apartment.  But it was a wonderful meal, and we had an excellent time with our families!  That large meal, combine with work luncheons, other misc get togethers, and holiday baking = over budget -- whomp, whomp.  But that's okay.  Howard is also eating like a horse, growth spurt I guess.  He isn't snacking much, but he eats a lot at mealtimes, which is a good thing, but is expensive.  All that to say that I am increasing our monthly budget to $350 each month in the new year.  I don't think I will need it all every month, but I'd rather have it than not.  Howard is getting bigger by the minute it seems, and is more mobile than every, which means more expensive diapers, more laundry detergent, and more food.  This equals a need for more grocery money.  Anyway, below is the wrap-up for December's grocery monies.  I will be posting my yearly update for 2015 soon.
  • Week #1: $80.65 oop, Earned $6 ECB's
  • Week #2: $114.15 oop Earned $7 ECB's, and $0.25 Ibotta Rebate
  • Week #3: $84.02 oop, Earned $6.89 ECB's, $0.50 Snap Rebate, $0.25 Ibotta Rebate, $1 Checkout 51 Rebate, and $25 Amazon Gift Card from Swagbucks
  • Week #4: $77.61 oop, Earned $13 ECB's
  • Week #5: $53.05 oop, Earned $10 ECB's, $1.50 Checkout51 Rebate, and $0.25 Ibotta Rebate
Total OOP: $409.48
Total Earned: $71.64
Total Remaining from December:  Zero!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Weekly Spending Report: 12/27/2015-01/02/2016

This week I made some interesting purchases.  We got some treat snacks to have on New Years Eve, as well as a few nice clearance items for the house and gifts.  I also stocked up on TP and salsa!  Here's how the week went down...
  • Monday's CVS Trip (Included, but not pictured is another package of TP): $10.51 oop, Earned $10 ECB's, and $1.50 Checkout 51 Rebate
  • Monday's ALDI Trip (Included, but not pictured is 4 gallons of H2O): $15.10 oop
  • Monday's Gaint Trip: $27.44 oop, Earned $0.25 Ibotta Rebate

Total OOP: $53.05
Total Earned: $11.75
Total Remaining from 2015: None, in fact I went over budget, and used some Christmas money to cover the difference, but I am so okay with that at this point in the year.  I am ready for a fresh start next week! 

Frugal Finds: December 2015 Edition

This month we hit up a local flea market and found some great deals...

Box of Big Ritz for Howard = $1
Little Metal Cups (great for ketchup or snacks for Howard) = $0.50
Marking Pencils for Sewing = $0.75
Tin Lunch Box that I am now using as a sewing box = $4
Train Print for Howard's Shelf in his Nursery = $0.50
Total: $6.75

We also managed to get into the thrift store this month as well...

4 Board Books for Howard (He loves books, and is so rough on them.  So I got some new ones to replace the ones I just recycled.) $0.99 ea = 4/$3.96
Khaki Pants for Howard 2T = $1.49
Jeans for Howard 2T = $1.49
Black Striped Long Sleeve Henley for Howard 2T = $1.99
Blue Long Sleeve Tee for Howard 2T = $1.99
Black and Gray Shirt for Howard 4T = $0.99
Long Sleeve White Dress Shirt for Joe = $7.99
1 Tent Repair Kit for Joe = $0.49
3/4 Sleeve Pink Shirt for Me = $4.99
3/4 Sleeve Brown Shirt for Me = $3.99
Long Sleeve Charcoal Layered Shirt for Me = $3.99
Total: $33.60

Weekly Spending Report: 12/20-26/2015

This was a WONDERFUL week, full of so many great holiday things -- we hosted Christmas Eve lunch with both of our families at our house (very stressful, but so worth it), we attended Christmas Eve service at our church, we drove around one evening to look at Christmas lights, I finished my holiday cookie baking, we did some last minute shopping on Monday, went to the Museum staff luncheon on Tuesday, gave and received a LOT of amazing gifts, ate a few too many cookies, and ended the week with some clearance shopping, and a family wedding on Saturday.  Needless to say we had a very full week -- I got a pimple from the stress, but fun was had by all, and that's what really matters.  Anyway.  With all of the feasting and gifting, shopping needed to happen too, so, without further ado, the shopping results for this week...
  • Monday's CVS Trip: $24.17 oop, Earned $13 ECB's
  • Monday's Giant Trip: $27.64 oop
  • Monday's ALDI Trip: $25.80 oop

Total OOP: $77.61
Total Earned: $13
Total Remaining for December: $10.46

Pantry Challenge January 2016

Pantry Challenge 2016 | Good Cheap Eats 

 I am joining Jessica over at Good Cheap Eats for another pantry challenge.  I try to do this twice a year as to keep the pantry manageable and the freezers defrosted.  Monday starts round #1 for 2016.  Join along as we eat down the pantries and freezers, rotate our stock, and hopefully create some new family favorites!