Monday, January 14, 2013

Save money with me!


Here are my most practical (and impractical) tips for saving money this year:

1. Stop shopping at Hy-Vee and start shopping at Fareway. Lance and I are very conscious grocery shoppers. We menu plan once a week and tend to stockpile when we notice ingredients that we are sure to use go on sale. We have both noticed that Fareway consistently has better prices than any other area grocery stores. They may not have quite the selection as Hy-Vee (especially if you live in central Iowa and have access to the biggest Hy-Vee in the nation), but for the average family the selection is more than sufficient.
2. Quit buying convenience foods and start buying ingredients. For example: swap your morning granola bar for a big tub of oatmeal. Portion out enough oatmeal, brown sugar and raisins (because apparently the only way for Lance to be able to consume granola is with brown sugar and raisins) for the week and you have your breakfast on the go. We don't buy those frozen pre-made Bertolli meals although I think they sound delish. They count as convenience food!
3. Get rid of your expensive magazine subscriptions! This tip is especially for me as I LOVE magazines. I am currently subscribed to seven different magazines and am currently phasing over half of them out. But am I doing without? No, utilizing my local library card, I am able to use the online reader service called Zinio to read all my current magazines.
3b. Or find a friend that works for Meredith and have them bring you magazines that you like to read.
3c. Or find a friend who will graciously let you read their magazines once they are done with them.
4. Meatless Monday. This past Monday I made a new recipe from Dinner A Love Story. I was a little skeptical (the meal consisted of spaghetti, olive oil, caramelized onions, spinach and balsamic vinegar), but was pleasantly surprised. Cheap meal!
5. Regularly read a couponing website for couponing ideas and sales. and are two great ones.
6. Figure out where your money is going and then do something about it aka: setup some sort of budget. For us, we do a version of Dave Ramsey's cash envelope system. We use our credit card to pay for gas because of all the extra points we get, but typically we stick to cash. One other exception is that I have a target debit card that I regularly use to get 5% off all my purchases. But the moment I get home I have Lance hounding gently reminding me about how much I spent and if I transferred the money from our cash folder.
7. For Christmas this past year, we did not use our credit cards, even with what limited income we have. We redeemed our stockpiled credit card points for gift cards to places where we knew we'd be shopping. For example, I used a Bed Bath and Beyond gift card to pay for gifts for both of my aunts and Lance used Sears and Home Depot gift cards to buy things for my dad and uncle. We also saved a portion of all of my promo paychecks to pay for gifts. I suffered through a particularly painful Halloween promo at the mall so I knew we'd be able to buy gifts this year. In my opinion, I wasn't paid enough to do this HORRID monster mash dance that I had to lead. Don't ask, there are no pictures or videos.
8. On that note, be willing to work hard to earn some extra Christmas cash. I got up at 5am on Black Friday and wrapped presents for 11 hours at the mall because I knew we needed the money. I was exhausted afterwards. I supposed that it didn't help that I had went out the night before and did a little pre-Black Friday shopping.
8b. Start contributing to a Christmas budget early in the year. Maybe this was relieve you from having to work terrible promotional events like me :)
9. Shop craigslist and utilize Facebook swap groups. I was telling my friend Mandy the other day that I got a large portion of my maternity clothes on craigslist. My philosophy is that if you can wash it and guarantee it's cleanliness, than you can buy it on craigslist. Lu got a play kitchen and tool bench for Christmas. Again - craigslist and FB swap groups! Besides I'm saving the environment by recycling some one else's toys :) Tell that to my recycle nazi husband!
10. The 10% tithe envelope. Every time we get a cash gift or I work a promo, 10% immediately comes off the top and goes into an envelope for giving to charitable causes. There are times when something will come up that I will want to contribute but I'll have a hard time because I don't know where the money will come from. Well, now we have a "giving to God" envelope so I can donate without having to worry if we actually have the money to do that because I know that we already have cash set aside. (This doesn't include the tithe money we regularly portion from Lance's paycheck.) 

This is how to save money the Kara way!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Success or Fail? A reflection of 2012's New Years Resolutions

Last year my four resolutions were as follows:

1. Learn how to make a Korean food dish.

2. Incorporate more vegetables into our diets.
3. Pay down 1/3 of my student debt.
4. Be content, but be fearless.

  • I still didn't cook a Korean food dish. That stupid resolution is the death of me and will be my ongoing list of resolutions (three years running). Sigh. Does anyone know how to make Korean food that could help a girl out with completing her resolutions?
  • I suppose my vegetable resolution is still a part of my ongoing list. Crap. Every time I vow to eat more vegetables I come home with bok choy. Does anyone else have that problem? No ... I suppose that's a Kara-specific quirk.
  • I am happy to report that we will soon be able to pay off all of my graduate loans. We're pausing on writing that check until I go back to work that way there is knowledge that there will be a regular income flow.
  • Be content, but be fearless. It's funny how God uses life circumstances to teach you about yourself. Last year when I wrote that resolution I had a predictable, full-time job. It wasn't a job that made me particularly happy, but it paid the bills and didn't leave me feeling bad at the end of the day. I think my thought process at that time was that I wanted to learn how to be happy with my job even if it wasn't the most glamorous of jobs. I also knew that we were planning on doing away with some major things in our life in order to save money and I was worried about that too. Well, look at where I'm at in 2013. Mid-spring I took a new job that I thought was going to make me happier or more "content." Instead I found myself a couple of months later jobless. I spent the rest of the year learning how to find contentedness. Fearlessness seemed to be out of the question. But as I sit here now, I realize that God granted me the opportunity to stay at home with Lucan, something that I would have never done voluntarily. While it certainly wasn't the situation I asked for, I do think that I found some fearlessness in 2012. Does this mean I can check off Resolution #4? :)1
For 2013 I'm not setting any new resolutions. I'm pretty sure that I still have plenty to work on from 2012!

Image source link.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

December in pictures

We visited three different santas this December. (I know, Lance thought it was excessive too. But I forgot my camera at the first one, so we had to go to a second one. The third santa was entirely unplanned.)
You might think by this picture that Lucan was one of those great kids who love sitting on Santa's lap. Ha! The second picture is more like reality.
Yeah, Lucan got sat on Santa's lamp and promptly wanted his daddy back. At 18 months, Lucan still isn't a fan of Santa.
We went to this awesome Christmas celebration back in Lance's hometown. Lu got a treat bag, a coloring book and a really nice teddy bear. And Lance won $20! Holla back young-uns.

By looking at this picture, you might think that Lucan is peeping at his presents. The reality is, Lucan is kitty-hunting. I left a small opening among the presents for Fire to enter and exit underneath the Christmas tree.

I thought last year was challenging trying to get Lucan to sit patiently in front of the Christmas tree. Little did I know that it would be ten times more difficult this year? Why didn't you all warn me?

Silly little boy running around Grandma K's house.

This was a game of "putting on grandpa's giant hat" that I captured on film.  

Even with Lucan's enormous head, grandpa's hat still is too big for a baby noggin.

But it made Lu laugh in delight.

Sadly, farmer daddy had to go back outside to continue chores.

Fortunately Lucan enjoys playing on his grandma's baby piano. I have to hide the piano stool because Lucan uses it as a step stool and turns all the lights on and off again.

This year Lu had a bit of help opening his presents. If Lance got him started on ripping the wrapping paper, Lucan could do it. I'm sure next year will be a big year for present unwrapping.

Andrea, on the other hand, is a pro at unwrapping presents. My guess is that she'd enthusiastically unwrap everyone's gifts if they let her.

Andrea and her fabulous purple hat :)

Andrea (5 years-old), Lu (18 months) and Wyatt (2 years-old).
I tried to convince all the little kids to sit nicely in front of the Christmas tree and have their picture taken. This is what I got instead :)

Lucan hamming it up at Jessie's house.
Jessie wanted to have an educational snack time so she put together snowman made out of bananas, carrots, grapes and apple straws. I don't think that Lucan properly appreciated his educational snack. The saddest thing that January has ushered in is the end of Jessie's maternity leave. No more easy Thursday play dates at Jessie's house. Obviously I need to either find a job or more friends. I'm not sure that either sound particularly easy.