Monday, December 30, 2013

Some New Year's Resolutions Worth Making

Here are some ideas that will help improve your financial bottom line. 

1.  Create a will and name guardians for minor children. 
2.  Buy term life insurance policies to take care of your family in the unfortunate event that you can't.
3.  Contribute to a company sponsored retirement plan at least up to any match that might be given.
4.  Open a Roth IRA and contribute as much as you can up to the limit for your age and/or income,
5.  Create a realistic budget and stick to it.
6.  Start an emergency fund if you don't have one.  If you do, add to it.
7.  Put some type of savings on auto pilot your checking account so you never have the chance to spend the money first.
8.  Pay down any credit card debt that you may have.
9.  Pay down any other consumer debt that you might have.
10.  Pay down your mortgage.
11.  Start a college account for each of your children.
12.  Watch Suze Orman every Saturday night that you can.  I am a Suze fan, although some people are not.  As with anything do your own research.
13.  Create a menu plan using those items lurking in your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer.  Make a list of what you need to complete those meals.  Stick to your list when you go to the store!
14.  Cut down on how often you eat out.
15.  Commit to making multiples when you make lasagna or other casseroles and freeze the extras.  Pull one out when you don't feel like cooking instead of picking up the phone and ordering a pizza.  Do this at least x number of times per month.
16.  Find some free things that your family will enjoy doing and DO THEM!
17.  Find parents with different work schedules than yours and do some free babysitting for each other.
18.  Learn to coupon.  Do it reasonably.
19.  Color your own hair instead of going to a salon.
20.  Find someone to carpool with.
21.  Give up an expensive habit.
22.  Start a change jar.  You can even throw in dollar bills!
23.  Get a library card.
24.  Commit to calling utility and insurance companies to try and get better rates.
25.  Learn to use a slow cooker.
26.  Have x number of no spend days per week.
27.  Teach your kids about money. 
28.  Organize your paperwork.
29.  Donate to a charity or a worthy cause.

I have done all of these (except #17) over the years with varying levels of success.  GOOD LUCK!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

January Menu Plan

The Menu Plan for January - in no particular order!  I am just listing the main items for most days unless it is a certain veggie that goes with a certain entrée.  We are a little OCD that way.  For example, we must have corn with scalloped potatoes!  We will have fruit or veggies with every dinner.  I have a freezer full of veggies, some fresh fruit and some canned fruit.  I will also pick up ingredients for fresh side salads a couple of times per month in addition to the nights that we have salad as the main entrée.
 
1.  Chicken Alfredo Pizza with homemade crust.
2.  Ham and Scalloped potatoes - green giant steamers
3.  Spaghetti with meat sauce - side salad
4.  Turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and a mixture of peas and corn
5.  Club sandwiches - bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese and leftover turkey
6.  Turkey pot pie - x2
7.  Turkey soup
8.  Turkey gravy on toast - simple, but one of my favorite meals
9.  Lasagna x3 - 1 for dinner and 2 for the freezer.  Lasagna is a family favorite, but it is a pain to make, so I always make 3.  It doesn't take much more effort to make 3 over making 1.
10.  Tacos
11.  Hamburg gravy, mashed potatoes and corn.  I think this is a regional thing in our part of the country.
12.  Pepperoni pizza with homemade crust
13.  Ham and cheese omelets with toast - my kids love this dinner!
14.  Chicken wings and salad
15.  Chicken penne pasta alfredo bake x2 (1 for the freezer) with a side of baked broccoli.  My youngest would never eat broccoli until I started roasting it.  It is delicious.
16.  Haddock - lemon pepper broiled for us and fried for the boys, butter parsley potatoes and a veggie.
17.  Grilled chicken salads - another favorite for my kids.  I love that they love salad.
18.  Wedding soup - a great way to get spinach and several other veggies into the kids!
19.  Ham and Bean soup
20.  Tuna noodle casserole - an all in one dish with peas and carrots.  Son #2 hates this so he will eat leftovers or fend for himself.
21.  Potato Soup
22.  Cheesy ham and corn chowder
23.  Taco salads
24.  Chicken nuggets with mac and cheese - pretty much just for the kids on a night we need an easy meal.  Hubby and I will likely eat leftovers instead.
25.  Fried potatoes and kielbasa
 
I am only planning for 25 days instead of 31.  That will leave some days for leftovers and days that we will not be at home.  For example, I know that 1 of the days we will be away celebrating my nephews birthday with him and that will likely involve eating out. 
We will not eat the meals in this order.  I made the plan based on what we already have at home to help limit grocery shopping.  We will need fresh produce, ricotta, hamburg, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, bread, lunch meat, chicken broth, fresh chicken breasts for salad (I have frozen cooked chicken for the other chicken dishes) and I am sure a few other things. 
When I sit and make a menu plan like this I realize how much stuff we actually have in the house.  This will hardly make a dent in most categories of our food inventory. 
 
*Today I cooked 17 lbs. of boneless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces in onion and olive oil.  I used some for chicken and rice today and froze the rest in family meal sized baggies.  I also did 8 lbs. of ground beef and browned it with onions and froze in meal sized baggies.  I won't use all of this in the January meal plan, so I will have some left going into February.  I also made up 5 dinner size baggies of ham right after Christmas.  I will buy fresh hamburger when I do lasagna.  I will not thaw out what I have to refreeze it in the lasagna.  It would probably be ok, but I would rather be safe than sorry.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

I Did It! I opened a Roth IRA! And College is looming!

Well I am definitely late to this rodeo seeing as I am in my 40's.  We have been saving for 2 decades in my husband's 401k.  So we have been saving, but have never taken advantage of the Roth tax free growth. 
When we were paying off student loans, paying for daycare and paying a mortgage we wanted the immediate tax savings of a 401k even though that wasn't logically our best move.  My husband's 401k has a match for the first 8% but we actually contribute a much higher percentage%.  We really need to revisit this decision too.  It would be better to just contribute the 8% and funnel the rest to a Roth for him.  I can't see tax rates going anywhere but up with the debt the USA is in, so I am thinking we should each be maxing out a Roth.  It is just hard to give up the immediate tax benefits, but I guess that is being short sighted. 
We also have college looming on the horizon for our 2 kids.  I have one that will be a junior and one that will be a senior in high school next year.  We have put $100 a month for each of them away since they were little and it will be barely enough to pay for one year each at a state school.  We just recently upped it to $150 each.  State schools run about $18,000/year here in PA.  We will look at private schools as I know they offer great scholarships and incentives in order to be competitive.  I sat on a scholarship committee for almost 10 years and know from looking at the applications that many students pay less for the more expensive private schools than state schools, so we will have quite a bit of research to do.  We should be able to supplement this a great deal from our yearly budget as we are now debt free.  My kids are only a year apart so that amount can go entirely to the oldest for his first year, will be split between the 2 of them the next 3 years and will go completely to the youngest the year after that.  If they take longer than 4 years that will be completely at their own expense.  The remainder will have to be supplemented by scholarships, jobs and student loans.  That is the plan.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Flu!

It started Christmas night after I was in bed.  We had a great holiday and everything went smoothly.  We went to my husband's grandmothers on Christmas Eve and then the late service that night where my sons were both acolytes.  Christmas morning we hosted a breakfast of toast, juice, coffee, omelets made to order, fried eggs, potatoes and Belgian waffles for 22 people.  We went to my in-laws Christmas afternoon with my parents.  All was good when I went to bed Christmas night until my youngest woke me at 4 in the morning because my oldest was sick and didn't want to wake me.  Apparently my husband had been up with them until 1 am because they had started with vomiting and diarrhea.  At 4 my oldest was super sick and didn't have the heart to wake me.  I ended up with it as did my husband.  We were all suffering on Thursday.  Today the kids and hubby are pretty good and I seem to be the last trying to shake this lovely bug.

No one has much of an appetite.  I was going to open my Roth Ira today with the $5500 I have socked away for it, but it just didn't happen.  I know I technically have until March or something to put $ in for 2013, but I am going to get it done before the 31st.  I need to work on some more definitive goals and a menu plan and I hope to do that tomorrow.  My brother's family is coming on Sunday to celebrate the holiday.  We decided to forgo exchanging presents this year.  Instead each member of my family donated money to my school for Christmas presents for needy kids.  We also decided to go to a nice restaurant instead of cooking, so that should be fun!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

January Goals

Short and Sweet...

1.  Add $1000 to emergency fund
2.  Add $500 to Roth IRA
3.  Menu plan around foods that we have on hand and shopping minimally.

It is that simple!

Go and visit Carla at my half dozen daily for some great inspiration for a low spend January!
http://halfdozendaily.typepad.com/my-half-dozen-daily/2013/12/who-else-wants-to-join-in-my-january-no-low-spend-challenge.html#comment-6a016300f919ba970d019b032f4487970c

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Plans for 2014

 I won't use the phrase "New Year's Resolution" and I want call these goals.  I just simply want to have a plan for 2013.  Simply put and in order of priority:
1.  Max out Roth IRA contribution for the year.
2.  Pay for a replacement car for my husband without incurring any debt.  Cost - anywhere north of $15,000.  We have been saving for this for over a year.  We plan on buying a recent model, low mileage, used car.  Wish Dave Ramsey would have come out with his "Drive Free Cars" video when I was younger and much dumber about cars!
3.  Pay for the replacement of our roof without incurring any debt.  Cost - I am guessing between $6,000 and $9,500.  We are in the process of saving for this right now.  
4.  Beef up emergency fund.  I would like to add 4k to this, but that might be next to impossible looking at goals 1,2 and 3.
 
Life happens and I might not  be able to achieve all of this, but putting it in writing gives me something to shoot for.  We will be traveling to Disney during the summer and that will be paid for from our checks leading up to the trip.  Somewhere down the road we need some replacement carpeting, but right now that does not seem like a priority.  Our first born will be a senior next year so we also have college or trade school looming on the horizon!
 
 

Menu Plan - Christmas Means Korv for Swedes!


I just came from the Annual Lucia festival at our local Lutheran Church.  The festival is always followed by a small gathering with traditional sweet treats along with Korv (yummo) and pickled herring (yucko).  It made me hungry for Korv so I stopped at the store on the way home and buy some even though this is supposed to be a light grocery shopping week!


Here is a photo of korv in its uncooked state.  I will parboil it, cut it into 2-3 inch pieces and finish it off by browning it in a frying pan.  We eat it with mashed potatoes with butter and corn any everyone in my family loves it!  I will try to remember to take a picture after I am done cooking it on Tuesday.  It might not look like anything exciting in its raw state, but trust me, looks are deceiving!! 
Onto the menu for the week:
 
Sunday - My kids were at my in-laws and they ate there.  I grabbed a bite at Lucia and my husband fended for himself.
Monday - roast beef with potatoes and carrots in the crock pot
Tuesday - korv, mashed potatoes and corn
Wednesday - I have no idea, but I am not cooking.  I am hosting craft night at my house so I am guessing my husband and kids will hide out at my in-laws.  They will either eat there or go to the Texas Hot before they visit.
Thursday - tacos
Friday - homemade pizza and tossed salad
Saturday - we will eat out as we will be out Christmas shopping

 

Weekend to do list so far... UPDATE: ALL DONE!


1.  Finish delivering what fruit we can from my son's  high school fundraiser.  2 people weren't home last night and one lady wants it delivered to work on Monday. - done except for Monday's delivery
2.  Finish a mountain of paperwork on a few of my students that is due on Monday. done and emailed in
3.  Shop today for loss leaders.
4.  Make a grocery/Rite Aid list for next week.  We don't need a lot, but we still need some things for Christmas breakfast.  I planned on driving to Jamestown, NY today to do some Christmas shopping and hit Sam's club while there.  There is a huge snowstorm looming, so that is not going to happen.  I more than likely won't make it there before the holidays now, so I need to get those breakfast items in my regular shopping.  Ah, the beauty of rural living in the Appalachian Mountain chain.  You have to drive at least 35 minutes to get to anything other than a grocery store, drug store, or dollar store.  Well that is a lie. I guess we do have a fabric store.  Go figure. Done - Nothing much that I want this week.
5.  Finalize plans for opening my Roth Ira sometime in the next week.  I have the $5500 ready to transfer to this new account.  I think I am going to set it up to draft $100 a week from my checking, so I never have to scrape together a large amount like this again.  I am not sure.  We shall see.  Done - going with Vanguard - will open on Thursday.  Disclaimer -I am not a financial advisor!  Please consult with an financial profession before picking investments!
6.  Count and roll change, from the jar for our Disney trip next summer.  I will deposit this to my local checking and transfer it to our remote Capital One 360 account to sit until we go.  I don't like much money laying around, so we count and transfer a couple of time per year.  Out of site, out of mind!  Rolled, deposited and transferred to Capital One 360.  It was $166.
7.  Cook something yummy since it is yucky outside.  Skipped - my mom had us for dinner yesterday which also took care of #11.  The kids are at my in-laws today.
8.  Make a list of what we have  and what we still need to pick up for Christmas gifts.
9.  File coupons.
10.  Try to sew one of those kitchen towels with a pot holder and button at the top to hang off the stove.  Should be easy, I just need to look for a how to video on youtube.  Done - I will post a pic sometime today.
11.  Go and visit my mom.
12.  Go to the Lucia Festival at my church with my mom on Sunday afternoon.  This is an old Swedish tradition.
13.  Make a menu plan for next week that again works from mostly what we have on hand.  The freezer and cupboards are bursting with items I have gotten on sale.  I don't do it to the point that I have stashs in my garage and basement, but my kitchen is packed!
14.  Lesson plans for next week.  Done and emailed in.
15.  Goal list for 2014.  This is going to be more a list of saving/spending objectives based on need and priority than a list of New Year's resolutions.

Not on the original list, but I made a jumbo receiving blanket yesterday.  Will post a pic of that later today too.  I should be able to knock the rest of this out sometime today.  The hard stuff is mostly already done!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

To Do This Weekend

I know this is a to do list, not Santa's list, but I couldn't resist the cute graphic for the holiday.
1.  Finish delivering what fruit we can from my son's  high school fundraiser.  2 people weren't home last night and one lady wants it delivered to work on Monday.
2.  Finish a mountain of paperwork on a few of my students that is due on Monday.
3.  Shop today for loss leaders.
4.  Make a grocery/Rite Aid list for next week.  We don't need a lot, but we still need some things for Christmas breakfast.  I planned on driving to Jamestown, NY today to do some Christmas shopping and hit Sam's club while there.  There is a huge snowstorm looming, so that is not going to happen.  I more than likely won't make it there before the holidays now, so I need to get those breakfast items in my regular shopping.  Ah, the beauty of rural living in the Appalachian Mountain chain.  You have to drive at least 35 minutes to get to anything other than a grocery store, drug store, or dollar store.  Well that is a lie. I guess we do have a fabric store.  Go figure.
5.  Finalize plans for opening my Roth Ira sometime in the next week.  I have the $5500 ready to transfer to this new account.  I think I am going to set it up to draft $100 a week from my checking, so I never have to scrape together a large amount like this again.  I am not sure.  We shall see.
6.  Count and roll change, from the jar for our Disney trip next summer.  I will deposit this to my local checking and transfer it to our remote Capital One 360 account to sit until we go.  I don't like much money laying around, so we count and transfer a couple of time per year.  Out of site, out of mind!
7.  Cook something yummy since it is yucky outside.
8.  Make a list of what we have  and what we still need to pick up for Christmas gifts.
9.  File coupons.
10.  Try to sew one of those kitchen towels with a pot holder and button at the top to hang off the stove.  Should be easy, I just need to look for a how to video on youtube.
11.  Go and visit my mom.
12.  Go to the Lucia Festival at my church with my mom on Sunday afternoon.  This is an old Swedish tradition.
13.  Make a menu plan for next week that again works from mostly what we have on hand.  The freezer and cupboards are bursting with items I have gotten on sale.  I don't do it to the point that I have stashs in my garage and basement, but my kitchen is packed!
14.  Lesson plans for next week.
15.  Goal list for 2014.  This is going to be more a list of saving/spending objectives based on need and priority than a list of New Year's resolutions.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thinking about what comes next...

I have been thinking about some goals and I find it hard for me to put myself out there and write about it.  I really am interested in finances but I feel like it is almost taboo to talk about.  I have always been very practical, but I feel like I have really been sharpening my frugal skills the past couple of years.  In my opinion there is a big difference between being frugal and being cheap.  To me cheapness means that you save money at any cost without concern for yourself, others or what is right.  Frugality is a based on not being wasteful and watching for deals.  It is cheap, and extremely disgusting, to share dental floss like on the show extreme cheapskates.  It is frugal to get dental floss for free or next to nothing by cutting a coupon and pairing with a store sale. 
My frugality allows me to help others in many ways.  First and foremost I am able to share the items that I get for little or nothing with those in need.  I don't extreme coupon.  I believe in everything in moderation.  Secondly, I am able to increase my giving to charity because frugality frees up money in my budget.  I am frugal where it makes sense, but I am a very generous person.  I always tip at least 15% in a restaurant, usually more like 20% and on occasion more than 20%.  I give in many ways and to various causes.  I feel that I can't really get specific because I am not sure who reads my blog and I really don't want to put it all out there. 
We have started taking a vacation every year and I feel good about that.  It is important to have balance.  To me, meal planning and pairing coupons with a store sale equates to less money needed in the budget for groceries, which frees up money for other, more fun things!

Onto the goals:
1.  Enjoy the holidays relaxing with friends and family.

2.  FINALLY open a Roth IRA for myself before the end of the year.  We are in our 40's and have been saving for retirement for over 20 years, but have never used a Roth.  I know, it's crazy!  I have already put the money away to max it out for the year, I just need to go online and open one.  This will be on top of the other things we have already be doing to save for retirement.

3.  Plan what I need for Christmas breakfast, look for deals and get the food shopping done.  We host breakfast every year for anywhere from 15 to 25 people.  It started when our kids were toddlers and didn't want to leave their new toys Christmas morning.  We figured if we cooked a great breakfast family would come to us and they now look forward to it every year.  Fried eggs, scrambled eggs, omelets, ham, toast, homemade Belgian waffles, potatoes, cinnamon rolls, juice, and coffee are on the menu every year with a few other things that change from year to year.  We have a lot of counter space and we set up stations.  One person makes toast, one runs the waffle maker, one fries ham, etc.  It works out really well. 

4.  Go over my budget for 2014.  I have had it setup for about 2 months.  I just need to revisit it to see what needs tweaked.  I automated all of my bills a couple of years ago, so it is important to know what day each bill will be withdrawn from my checking so there is always enough money in the account to cover it.

5.  Finish my Christmas shopping.  What's left is mostly purchasing a few gift cards and then we need to wrap.  We cut way back this year.  We are not exchanging with the in-laws this year.  We are splitting the cost of our vacation house for next summer and that's that.  Also, we are not exchanging with my parents.  Instead we gave money to the school I teach at for gifts for students that are in need.  Much better than exchanging with each other.




I have been thinking a great deal about my goals for 2014, but am not ready to post yet.  That will be coming soon.  We have some big ticket items that we need to take care of and we don't want to incur any debt to do it.  New carpeting is at the bottom of that last and I don't know if we will be able to do that as we have too many other important things to pay for.  We will see.  Also, my oldest will be a senior next school year.  That means college costs are looming on the horizon for us!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Menu Plan 12-8-13

I am an avid coupon shopper and I currently have well stocked cupboards that we need to make sure we use.  I don't do the extreme couponing like you see on TLC but I will buy between 2 and 8 of something that is a rock bottom price.  I will also buy as many items as I have matching coupons for if it makes the item free.  I have only done this excessively (over 8 of something) with frozen veggies.  They are completely free only once or twice a year, so I fill 1 or 2 shelves in my upright freezer when that happens.
Ok - on to the menu plan using a lot of what we already have.

Sunday - cheesy hash brown bake with bacon, broccoli, corn muffins
Monday - baked Italian pasta with ground beef and topped with mozzarella, garlic bread and frozen green beans
Tuesday - chicken tortellini soup, leftover corn muffins
Wednesday - planned leftovers - Italian pasta and or chicken tortellini soup
Thursday - hamburger helper (blech- I won't eat it) and frozen mixed veggies
Friday - baked lemon pepper haddock, green giant steamed veggies that include little red potato wedges
Saturday - who knows if we will be home or out Christmas shopping

Notes-
Sunday's dinner was ok, but I won't be making it again.
KID #2 did not like the corn muffin experience and does not like them.
Kid #2 can make a sandwich on Tuesday to go with his soup if he would like.
I hate hamburger helper, but my family likes it.  It was free with coupons and will make a quick supper on a night that we are really busy.  I don't like overly processed foods, but I guess in moderation it might be considered ok.
When I was making the pasta bake, I also made the soup.  That means no cooking for the next 2 nights!
BEST OF ALL - I DON'T NEED TO BUY ANYTHING FOR THIS MENU!  I will shop for a few items that are almost free to add to the pantry and milk or fresh bread if run out and that is it!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What is going on with Blogger?

I had a few posts that never published over the past few weeks and they just showed up tonight?  I kept hitting publish back when I wrote them, but they wouldn't post.  Now tonight they all showed up together.  What is up with that?