Monday, July 25, 2011

How to Save Money When You Think You've Maxed Out

I've talking before about our family's desire to pay off our student loans and get out of debt. After a year and a half of trekking along, we've managed to lower our balance by almost half as well as pay cash for the birth of Peanut (no maternity coverage). After some recent examination, we figured we could cut back even more. With the light at the end of the tunnel, it's makes us want to try and really see if we can do it by our goal date, July 2012! Here are some ways we are cutting back to save us an additional $4,000 throughout the next year:
  • Lower our grocery bill - I recently discovered The Grocery Shrink, and after reading a few of her posts, I decided to buy her eBook and see if I could glisten anything new from it. I am so glad I got that eBook, because not only did I learn a whole new approach to grocery shopping, but I can see that it is going to save us approximately $125 a month!! I thought I was a frugal person before, but Angela has shown me ways in which we can cut back even more to get to our goals without sacrificing healthy foods.
  • Cut back on phones - We have a house phone as well as 2 cell phones. I recently was gifted a blackberry, and so we also had a data plan and messaging on my phone. We hardly use our house phone, so cutting this out will be easy and save us $24 a month. By switching back to a basic phone, I will also save an additional $20 a month on our cell phone bill.
  • Eliminate Entertainment - Although we did not spend much on entertainment to begin with (only $25 a month), we realized that there are plenty of things we can do that are free and save this money instead.
  • Cut back on Babysitting- This is one area we really hadn't even implemented yet, so it will be easy to cut back on it. We had originally planned for 2 dates a month, but now we are going to shorten that to just 1. We will also do something free instead of using entertainment money to go out somewhere. Savings on this is $20 a month.
  • Eliminate Lawn Sprays - Last month we started getting our lawn regularly sprayed to help with the weed encroachment. If we hadn't done something there probably would not be any grass left in our backyard, and that would have been an expense to start over. However, our lawn looks fabulous now, and I doubt we need the rest of the season's sprays to keep it looking decent. We may still get it sprayed once in the fall, but will be canceling the rest. Monthly savings on this is $50.
  • Increase our Health Insurance Deductible - Since we moved, our premiums went up by about $60. By increasing our deductible, we can potentially save that $60 increase and more. Since we are saving all the money we will be using to pay off debt until after the baby is born, we will be able to meet the deductible if complications do occur. But since I am low risk and already had a complication free birth, the risk of that happening is slim.
  • Cut Back on Driving - Since Rob is a worship minister at a church 30 minutes away, we had been driving separately to church on Sundays. He has to be there early and stays late, so it made sense to do it this way. However, if I get up early and ride with him instead, we could save $40 a month on gas. Since that was the only time we really used our second car anyway, we will also be able to save on maintenance for the car - about $25 a month.
Total Yearly Savings: $4,620.00!

This plan will allow us to be able to pay off our student loans a whole 2 months earlier than anticipated, making the sacrifice just less than a year! We are so excited we finally added up all those expenses and saw just how much money we really did have to save to allow us to reach our goals. So, just when you think you can't cut back anymore, make every dollar count and re-examine every piece until you find that one thing that can be saved instead. It really makes a difference!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Peanut is a Walker!

For the 4th of July, we went on a family vacation to my aunt and uncle's cabin in northern Michigan. The cabin is so peaceful and quiet, situated on a small lake not to far from Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

This was the second time that we visited together, but the first time that Peanut joined us! We had such a good time relaxing, swimming, boating, exploring, hiking and spending time together! And to add to the memories, Peanut started full-time walking on this trip!

The drive there was 8 hours, the longest we have ever gone with Peanut in the car. We tried going through the night thinking she would sleep most of the way, but that did not go over well. She only likes to sleep about 2 hours at a time in her carseat! So on the way back, we drove throughout the day and took lots of walking breaks, and that went much much better. As long as she had plenty of books to look at and interesting new toys every so often, so was pretty content! She did really well sleeping in the pack n play in our room at the cabin, and we didn't have to fight naps with her either, which was really nice! I think all the new experiences tired her out fast!

It was so nice to have some quality time together as a family! Daddy C took off 3 days so we had 5 whole days to spend there, which is the longest vacation we have taken in some time! The best part was that it didn't cost us hardly any money since we stayed at the family cabin and ate almost all our meals there. Including gas, we spent less than $400 for this trip! That also included a day excursion to one of the nearby islands!

Enjoying our hike on top of Alligator Hill! She loves hiking and does really well in the backpack- this hike was 2 hrs so I was happy she was so content!

Playing with the rocks at Lake Michigan. She loved picking them up and banging them together!

We had a great time on our vacation and can't wait to go back next year!

Now that she is walking, we have to keep an extra eye on her to make sure she doesn't get into anything she isn't supposed to be in or run off unexpectedly. But it's so wonderful to watch her explore and find things! She is so fun!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I'm still here! Summer Garden Update

I know I have been major MIA lately on this blog! I've just had to step back and take a break due to intense morning sickness that is just now starting to go away. I am 17 weeks along, and finally starting to get some of my appetite back as well as my energy. Taking care of an active toddler definitely makes being pregnant more of a challenge, so I have not had the chance to blog like I used to. However, I hope to resume a somewhat more consistent blogging schedule now that I am feeling better!

Our garden is doing great so far! We have been able to harvest lots of broccoli, and endless amount of lettuce (which really was a mistake because we could not eat it all!), several heads of cauliflower and cabbage as well as a few onions. I sorta let the garden go while I was feeling sick, and so I am embarrassed to admit quite a bit of our broccoli went bad before we could get to it! I also planted tons of tomato and peppers plants and they were doing pretty good despite me remembering to water them during dry spells.

Unfortunately, during this time we also took in another cat, Pickles. My mom, who is moving, asked us to take her in and we agreed as this is my childhood pet were we talking about. However, much to our dismay, we recently discovered Pickles has been using the vegetable garden as her litter-box!! I was so upset when I discovered this. Because of the risk of toxoplasmosis during pregnancy and to babies, we decided to stop harvesting and call it a year for this gardening season.

I am so sad, since I especially was looking forward to canning endless amounts of tomatoes and freezing all those peppers! I cannot even tend to the garden anymore, which makes me really disappointed. Thankfully, after some research, we discovered a way to restore the soil once fall comes. Next year we will have to build a fence of some sort to keep Pickles (and other neighborhood cats) out, but should be able to resume gardening then. It's definitely been a year of learning what not to do as far as vegetable gardening, so that will at least give us a leg up on the next season!

I really need to take some pictures of the state of our garden now that we have let things go. Our lettuce plants are going on 5 feet tall! The broccoli plants have flowered completely and are also very tall. Oh and the squash is spreading beautifully. At least it still looks pretty, lol.