3.21.2013

Spring Break

I had grand intentions for Spring Break but we all know where that road leads. It started with a tickle in
the back of my throat and I woke up Monday with a wicked headache and the distinct need for Sudafed. So my good intentions were shelved for the day and I slept. I slept long and hard in an attempt to head this cold off and then laid low for the rest of the day. It didn't help and now I'm on day 4 of this annoying cold.



** edited for Pinch Paisley who wanted to see pictures from my Spring Break **



This week, I cooked up a batch of Greek Lentil Soup and a homemade loaf of beer bread. We have snow on the way later this week and it's still pretty chilly outside so this hit the spot and there was enough for leftovers. Delish but next time I'll add more carrots and maybe a ham bone for depth of flavor.




Hopefully, this cold will back off and I can get cracking on the things I wanted to do around here - namely tackle the basement/school area and get that all tidied up for our last quarter of school. Things have piled up and it is all kind of a mess down there right now. I'm in the middle of reassessing our curriculum choices for next year and I have some things I need to get rid of as well as getting completed schoolwork organized so that I can create end of the year portfolios for The Boy and The Girl. 


I did do one remarkable thing this week - I paid off every dime of credit card debt that we have. This is momentous - never once, in the history of our marriage (and, I'm pretty sure, not since I procured my first credit card) have we been without credit card debt. And our outstanding balances have been BIG - due in part to legal fees we incurred and in part to our decision to bulk up our cash savings in preparation for MacGyver's exit from the Army rather than pay down our debt. This was a double-edged sword - to do this, we used some of the money MacGyver received as part of his separation. Basically, we used part of his retirement savings to do this. But this was only after careful consideration and consultation with our financial advisor. It makes more sense to knock out unsecured debt that was dragging in 10+% in interest charges rather than let that cash sit in a savings account, earning a measly 1.0% (if we're lucky). 


And now, it is done. No more credit card debt. Now, the trick will be to KEEP it that way. We have several recurring charges that run through our credit card - primarily for convenience: cell phone bill, swim team payment, and our sponsorship through Compassion International. I refuse to allow our debit card to be used online in any way so we will still use our credit card for online purchases. However, I'm going to 'borrow' Teresa's idea and keep a running monthly tally of our credit card charges on the fridge so that MacGyver and I both know what we've spent and the statement won't be a surprise when it comes in the mail. 


For the past few months, we've been running our grocery purchases through our Amex card (which has a cash back bonus) but I'm finding that I'm breaking my food budget too easily that way so this month we are back to operating on a cash basis. This makes it easier for me to make sure we stay on budget. We buy raw milk, eggs, and beef (which we buy very rarely) from local suppliers so I know what my monthly expenditures there will be: about $50 per month. We also have started participating in Bountiful Baskets, which provides low-cost fresh fruits and veggies for a really great price (and they offer an organic option as well!) so that's about $50 per month. Our monthly food budget is $400 so that leaves me with $300 for everything else, which is usually plenty, especially if I am good about making snacky-type items from scratch (cookies, muffins, etc.).


Another thing that helps is Harvester's. Our church participates in this and offers distribution through Harvester's each month and we are involved in helping. It's a great way for us to give back to our community and a wonderful way for our children to do so as well. At the end of the day, the people that help are welcome to take home any of the remaining food before it is taken to a local food bank. Last time, there was a HUGE dearth of Bosc pears, cabbage, Kraft Take Fresh kits, and boxed salad so we were blessed to take some of that home as well. That definitely helped offset our food budget.


Lastly, I stumbled across Danielle over at Blissful and Domestic and found that she and I are about in the same boat - living on a very frugal budget and doing our best to make ends meet. We don't own our own home like they do but it looks like, pretty soon, we'll be living on the GIBill and, if she can do it, so can we. Or so I hope! Looks like we may very well be finding out.


I am starting to look for ways to bring in some extra income. I'm selling off some things that we no longer need, writing some freelance articles (like this one --> Getting Out), selling some advertising space on the old blog, and looking into offering tutoring services to people who need them. Every extra dollar helps. Now that the weather is *supposed* to start warming up, MacGyver is going to reinsure the motorcycle and start riding that rather than driving the truck, which should help cut our petrol bill back even further. We're still line-drying most of our clothes and keeping the thermostat nice and low so that has helped keep our electricity bill low as well.


Next up will be cutting back on the cell phone plan (we don't use enough data or enough anytime minutes to warrant unlimited plans for those items. Ditto on the texting.) and probably ditching cable. Between Netflix, Amazon Prime's streaming, and the Roku box that MacGyver scored off Craigslist for dirt cheap, we really don't need, nor do we use, cable. So that should save us about $50 per month on cable and I'm hoping we'll be able to knock $50 per month off of our cell phone bill as well.


And, if it looks like we're going to be here longer than I expected, I am going to see whether or not the swim team has room on deck for another coach. Even if they can only waive my kids' fees, that's worth it. We'll see! For now, I am off to take more Sudafed and Mucinex and see about tackling the basement. 




Pau.




- hfs

3 comments:

Pogue said...

Hope you're feeling better soon. I think that was a stunt double in the sunbathing picture - real Irish have that slight greenish tint ;-)

Outstanding job on the credit card debt! A suggestion for keeping up on it - use a check book register and treat it like a debit card. Your limit is the base number, so every time you pay something you can see it. The goal is to keep your ledger at your "limit".

I guess we still have training money since I'm at Ft Eustis now, and the Panama rotations have started. We are going to get 22 days of furlough starting next month, so something is happening...

Valerie Ruth said...

How much do you really save by line drying your clothes?

Also, HOW ON EARTH do you keep your food budget so low? We spend double that and eat only whole foods (no processed, packaged, instant, etc).

Finally, you're awesome. :)

Homefront Six said...

Val ~ based on this website (http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/appliances/dryers.html), I estimate that it costs me 40 cents to run a load through our dryer. Our dryer is O.L.D. so I went with the higher cost in their estimated range. Plus, our energy costs in this area aren't as low as other parts of the country.

We average 1 load per day (to include towels and bath mats) so that's $2.80 per week if I line dry everything. Normally, I don't line dry jeans or underwear/socks because that's annoying. So I'd drop my estimate to about $2.00 per week. However in the winter, I leave my laundry room door open (it's on the main level of our house) so that helps keep our heating cost down. I'd say the savings estimate is probably $10 - $15 per month. It's not a lot but it's something!

I also rarely use hot water to wash - only when I'm running bath mats or other heavily soiled items. Otherwise, I use cold water, vinegar for fabric softener, and Arm and Hammer scent-free detergent (I've made my own but the A&H is actually more gentle on my skin). And a wool dryer ball from my friend Beth in the dryer!

As for food, we rarely do red meat - no more than once per month. I stock up on chicken when it's less than $2 per pound. We splurge on salmon and other fish. We do a LOT of pasta (which I stock up on when it's on sale for less than $1 per item) and a fair amount of both bean meals and breakfast/egg meals. I've scaled back BIG time in terms of processed foods and we tend to stick with in-season fruits and veggies. I've been making more of our snack foods too, which helps. And water - lots of water. Juice only happens once per day and milk is just with meals. I'll post this month's grocery purchases and the meals we ate when I get a chance.