There’s BUSY and then there’s busy…

Since I married Husband and the girls 6+ years ago, life has been, shall we say, BUSY.
(Who am I kidding? My life has always had a hectic mach-speed-multi-tasking pace to it.)
Then I quit my job and started working for myself. BUSY.
Then we had Kid #3. BUSY.
Then the girls picked up more sports, club sports, school sports. Each! BUSY.
Then came Kid #4. BUS-Y.

The BUSY was a certain kind of busy – we were on the go 24-7. There was ALWAYS a game, a tournament, a practice, a dinner, a birthday, a scheduled event, a school function, a family obligation. I spent, literally, days at a time in the car. There was no rest and high stress trying to juggle everything and everyone (not to mention how much we were spending in gas! and fast food!). Sure, we managed to also fit in friends, but it was often wedged in there between 3 other things and had to be scheduled well in advance. And sure, I could get a few moments to myself, as long as they were in the car if the boys happened to fall asleep en route to yet another place we needed to be.

But this year is different so far…

Both girls let go of a few extra-curriculars. Tt is now homeschooling rather than rushing out to daycare and lessons four times a week (now we only have 2 things per week). Boo is content to sit more and loves dragging my lazy butt out into the backyard to just… relax. breathe. be.

Our schedule is still full, no doubt, but now it’s mostly just full of people. Adults, teenagers, small kids, family, our friends, our kids friends. Now our HOME is busy, not our car.
And it’s great.

What happened to Pennies?

With me, a passing interest (and a few hours at a computer to Google) can quickly turn into a complete obsession. So, along with my newfound SAVER attitude, and armed with Google, I have found many ways to save the pennies along the way as well as the bigger dollars.


1. The Spare Change Jar.
Every time Husband or I have spare change, we put it into a piggy bank for the Kids. I even made my own bank that has 4 parts to it – INVEST, SAVE, TITHE, SPEND. Invest goes into their bank accounts once a month (along with an extra $20 or so from Momma Bear) or so (NOT to be touched until they are about 30); Save is there for the next big holiday; Tithe is money they carry to Sunday School, or children’s charities; Spend is cash, baby. We figure their Invest accounts will get up to a downpayment for a house by the time they’re 30. Kids great-grandmother even saves all her pennies for us.

2. The Pop Bottles.
Kids pilfer the grandpa’s house then head with all our bottles out once a month to the return depot. It’s gross. Slimy. GERMY. But, it adds $20/m or so into their Invest section.

3. Plant a Garden.
This is my “Spring” plan for those Heirloom tomatoes that make such lovely salads. We eat a ton of tomatoes and raspberries, so I’ll start by planting those two and see if I can manage to keep them alive. (Hey, I’ve kept those danged feeder fish alive for almost 3 years, anything’s possible…). And at the prices of those tomatoes these days, there’s gotta be a good monthly savings out there. Besides, Kid #4 loves to be outdoors, so maybe I should get out there once in awhile too.

4. Coupons.
I hate coupons. I make a valiant effort once in a blue moon to find them and cut them out, just to leave them at home when I’m out shopping. So, I’m only going to look for coupons for the things I use THE MOST and give it one more best effort.

5. Have an automatic withdrawl into a savings acc’t.
I looked at the numbers for this, and I’m not really sure it makes a whole lot of difference in the long run unless you tuck away at least $100-200/m. And we might still miss that right now, so maybe this is one for 2010. Well, maybe if we start now but at $50/m it’ll still add up to the trip to Greece… or back to Florence… when we retire.

6. Bake bread.
This, I’ve realized, isn’t so hard since we actually HAVE a bread-maker! And the 12-grain whole what-ev-er kind of bread we buy is up to $4.70 per loaf – times 2 per week! So, maybe sticking in some ingred’s before bed once in awhile won’t be so hard. And could save a few more pennies. Maybe Husband can take this one on.

7. Use newspaper cartoons as wrapping paper. $4/wrapping x 10 relatives per year…
They just tear it up and toss it out anyhow, so why not.

8. Make your own cards. $4/card x 20 relatives per year…
They just toss ’em out anyhow, so why not.

9. Freeze food.
Bananas (for smoothies), Garlic, Fresh-squeezed Lemon juice (in cubes), etc.
We throw out a LOT of food, so freezing it in useable bits has gotta save SOMETHING.

10. Go to the Library.
This is for other people, not me.
For me, Libraries are horribly expensive places that I cannot afford.
Chapters is my Library. Besides, the one near us also has a Starbucks and a train table…
And even THEN it’s cheaper than paying my late fees!

11. Pack your lunch.
We mostly do this already, b/c it’s just plain healthier.

12. Make your coffee at home.
YAY for Starbucks Barista Machines!! Woot, Woot!

13. Walk more.
Now, with homeschooling, we actually can! No daily drive to drop off/pick up, except Kids #1 and #2 a few times a week. And, sometimes we actually just WALK for the day rather than drive about. Believe it or not.

14. Pay mortgage payments bi-weekly.
Just read this one… It means two extra payments over monthly payments, per year. ?? Will have Husband look into that one.

15. Record every purchase.
This will only serve to HIGHLIGHT the multiple trips to Starbucks a week… (and unnecessary trips when you have a machine sitting right at home!!).

16. Buy offseason.
I try to buy the boys’ clothes on sale a season in advance. But then, they’re boys. They don’t much care what they wear and they pretty much wear the same things every year. The girls had been much different…

Buy gifts for the year (birthdays, anniversaries, even next Cmas!) all during the big sale week and stockpile them. Also you don’t have to worry about last-minute stress of having to find s’thing for a last-minute party that you’d completely forgotten about.

18. Cut your own lawn.
Ya, we let go of the gardener, too…

19. Promotion Code.
Just read this one, too – Grama probably already knows it. When buying online, Google the store and the words “promotion code” and you’ll almost always get a hit for saving some $$ on your purchase, even if it’s just for shipping. Hmmmmmm. Shopping online… Wonder if I can buy them knee-high black leather boots online…

to be continued…

Money, Honey


For 37 years now I have been a SPENDER. Not one ounce of SAVER in me.
BUT, I’ve gone from a 3-(expensive)-meals-out-a-day-single gal (GOSH I miss those days!) to a mother-of-four-get-your-butt-in-the-kitchen married gal in just 6 short years. Times change. Taking the family to Italy this summer made me realize that there’s a whole lot more interesting things to see out there than the insides of the Mall (well, actually, I never really liked Malls – I prefer those uber-expensive outdoor street-lining shops.) (GOSH I miss those days…). If I could become a SAVER (thinks me) rather than a SPENDER, I could be outdoor street-lined shopping in Greece (or Paris, I’m not that fussy) once in awhile.

SO, here we are, two months into my new SAVER attitude, and this is what I’ve done so far:

1. Discontinue daycare. $200/m.
This will actually cost money in the long run, but don’t tell Husband. Homeschooling is a license to be a SPENDER with a cause…

2. Discontinue nanny. $700 – 800/m.
This is making it harder to actually work – which I’m sure will surface a whole new blog on juggling caring for your 4 kids without daycare or nannies, working for yourself, feeding the masses, driving the masses everywhere they need to go, homeschooling, financial planning, retirement planning, yada yada yada… BUT, for now we’re getting by, so discontinued it remains.

3. Cancel house phone. $40/m.
This is in progress, but will be happening shortly. With our cell phones, won’t be needing it.

4. Put Mother Bear on a budget… $800/m.
This is a generous estimate – I’m sure we’re saving more because I’m sure I was overspending by more than that. I limited myself to $100/day for EVERYTHING – food, gas, school supplies, grad photo sittings, library late fees, shoes… you name it, EXCEPT Christmas gifts and hotels when we travel (other travel expenses will have to fit into the $100/day).

5. Put Mother Bear on a tighter budget. $300/m.
I figured that if I was still able to buy lots of shoes and go to the spa, I could probably be doing more to save our family money… I limited myself further to $90/day.

6. Change cell phone plans. $30/m.
I’m not really sure how much we’re saving by changing to cheaper plans, but anyhow… The cheaper plans actually allowed for more time, so I’m anticipating the elimination of extra minute billing.

7. Cancel Cable TV. $50/m.
We actually did this awhile back (a year ago?). Even the teenagers say they don’t miss it, but that’s probably because you can see pretty much whatever you want an hour or two after it ends on YouTube… (YouTube’s free!).


Shouldn’t take long for Husband to treat me to a “job well done” weekend in Paris, now, should it??
Well, I have some more ideas for next year, just to make sure.

1. Reduce Bank Fees. $??/m.
Hopefully Husband will look into that for us. I have no idea what fees we’re paying or why or what can be done about it. We’ll get into it soon.

2. Pay off High Interest Debt. $150/m.
We’re currently carrying a debt with about $150/m of interest. We should be able to pay off 1/3 of it in the next few months, and the rest in about a year from now.

3. Sell Stuff.
Now that I’ve been banned from collecting any more children by Husband, I guess it’s time to sell all that pre-terrible-two stuff we have downstairs overflowing from our storage room. Maybe we’ll even sell enough for a real nice dinner out while we’re in Paris…

4. Smarter Food Shopping. $50/m.
Oh, I’m guessing at that amount. BUT, it can’t hurt to buy things we ALWAYS use in bulk or on sale or whatever. We’ll see. Next year.
(P.S. I also plan to plant an Heirloom Tomato garden… Have you SEEN the price of a few Tomatoes these days???).

5. Reduce Child Support by half. $200/m.
Well, we can’t reduce THE CHILD, but in a year Kid #1 will be 18!
(Note to future self – Kid #1 will suddenly be costing FAR more than $200/m in University costs…).

6. …
Ok – I guess I need more ideas than that…

It becomes like a contest – like trying to find THE perfect pair of knee-high black leather boots. How big CAN I get that “SAVED/m” number?? I wonder…
OOOoooh, but the higher that number gets, the more I’ll enjoy that trip to Paris…

Nov 1st update: Husband opened our latest Visa bill the other day – he was so happy to see a bottom line $2,000.00 less than he used to see! I’m happy to be off to buy my new knee-high black leather boots. Yay, me!

My Crew

Introduction of my crew…

“Husband” 6 years and counting!
He’s a real handy guy – as long as we don’t let him play with actual tools.

Kid #1 – “B”
Who is soon-to-GRAD!!
What can I say?? She gets all her looks (and red hair!) from me.
(Well, we’ll give her orthodontist and her fake eyelashes SOME credit too…)
I think she gets her forgetfulness from me too… (Sorry, B)

Kid #2 – “A”
My “little” Teen Vogue-r!
She gets her red hair from me too – I meticulously put every one of those streaks in with the utmost of tender loving care!
She actually got a lot of her outgoing-ness from me – before me she just hid. From everyone.

Kid #3 – “Tt”
A real swell guy. When he’s not trying to shoot you down.
OOooh, I sure love that smile.

Kid #4 – “Boo”
An almost-terrible-two. His instructions came saying “Feed the Bear. Often. Or Else.”
Who could NOT love those eyelashes??? (They are not fake…)

Last but not least, the Momma Bear. (Also needs to be fed often. Or else.)
She hasn’t slept in about 6 years, so this is the best photo we could get…