Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Budgeting-- How'd we do?

I recently posted about our plan to start budgeting using a cash envelope system.  We have just completed our first month with the plan, and I am really excited about how well it went!  It really did affect the way we made decisions about how we would spend our money.  There were many occasions when eating out or ordering a pizza sounded nice, but we decided to stick with the budget. When I would plan for our weekly meals, there were things I decided not to make because the ingredients would be more expensive.  We have also been buying fewer sweets and snacks since most of our money goes toward food purchases to make actual meals.  Towards the end of the month, we still had some money left in our "random" category, so we decided to splurge ($20) by eating out with some friends.   Even then, we decided to share an entree.  We really didn't have to (budget-wise), but something about being thrifty throughout the month made us want to be frugal even in our "splurging."  For the most part, I feel like I have correctly allocated funds to each category.  Here they are, as a reminder.

Groceries: $300
Out to eat: $25 
Entertainment: $10
Random: $145
Medical and Toiletries: $45 

This month, we had to "borrow" from different categories a few times, but overall, we came out $38 over (which was the remainder of the random category).  I decided to go ahead and make the random category rollover into the next month.  We didn't have a whole lot of miscellaneous expenses this month, but somehow, we ended up spending most of the money there.  I think that rolling the money over will help to cover the expenses of things that come up which may be a bit pricey (household maintenance costs, car repairs, ordering contacts for Ryan once a year, etc.  The grocery category was  bit challenging to stay within as well.  We had a big grocery trip yesterday which I am counting as part of March's grocery budget, so we ALMOST made it a whole month on just $300.  Rather than upping the amount, I am going to keep it as a goal for March and see if careful planning will get us there.  If, after a few months, we are still having a hard time staying within that amount, I will go ahead and change it.  The best part of this month's budgeting, though, was getting online tonight to make a payment on one of Ryan's student loans!  What a nerdy thing to get excited about, right?  It is really motivating to have that goal in mind and to actually be paying off that debt a little more quickly than we would if we just paid the minimum payments.  Based on our income and new budgeting system, we should be able to put an extra $500-$600 towards student loans every month.  I so wish that we could be one of those Dave Ramsey stories of a couple who pays off like $30,000 of debt in 18 months, but with the amount of debt we have and the rate at which we are paying it off, it will likely take us much much longer.  But, I still believe we are making the right choice by getting our finances in line and knowing where our money is going each month.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Random assortment

Tonight I came home from work and found that my husband had cleaned the kitchen (including mopping and cleaning the high chairs)!  What a guy!  I was so thankful, since that is how I had planned to spend the rest of my evening.  So instead, I got some other cleaning done, looked over our budget this month (it is going well, btw!), and then had a little time to do a blog post before I go to bed.  Here are some cute things Sophie is saying these days (more for my memory than anything). 

Sophie sayings:

Sit with me (pronounced si-me).  She says this when she wants to sit in your lap and read a book.

I love you (pronounced I-yu-you).  We tell her this throughout the day and she will repeat it back.

It's a _______.  This is what she says all day long to name any item or tell you something she wants.  Example:  Sophie, "It's a puzzle."  Me, "You want a puzzle?"  Sophie (yelling), "It's a PU--ZZLE!!!"  Me, "Ok, you want a puzzle."  Sophie, "It's a want."  Me, "Yes, you want a puzzle."  Sophie, "It's a want."   The funnier thing is when she says "It's a want" without telling you first what she wants.  You can ask her what she wants or say, "what do you need?"  She will go back and forth between "It's a want" and "It's a need."  Usually pointing helps in this situation.

"It's a oatmeal."  This means she wants to help feed herself whatever food you are giving her (usually yogurt or applesauce since I still spoon feed her these things).  One time she was eating oatmeal and I let her help with the spoon, so now, whenever you get out food, if she wants to help, she says, "It's a oatmeal."

Sally doesn't have as many "sayings" at this point, but she repeats EVERYTHING you say!  It is so cute how her little words come out sometimes.  I need to get some on camera.

And then here are some pics of the girls "dressing up."  They like to get all the bows out of their drawer and want me to put them on them.  Too bad they don't wear them longer than a few minutes!

Sophie looks so old to me here!
Sally is such a camera girl.  She always has the BEST smiles (see below and above!)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Snow Day

Sophie and Sally got to experience snow for the first time the other day.  Sophie loved it, but Sally was not a fan.  Sally didn't like the insecure footing the snow provided, and I think she felt a little stiff in her snowsuit.  We were probably outside a grand total of 5 minutes.  It was pretty cold, and Sally wasn't enjoying herself.  On our way inside, Sophie was crying because she didn't want to go in (and flailing her body all over the front porch) while Sally was crying because she didn't want to be outside.  And to top off this comical scene, I fell into the house (no one was hurt) while trying to get them both inside.  I thought to myself, "Well, THAT was fun, wasn't it."  I wonder how many times moms say that to themselves after finishing what they had envisioned to be "fun experiences" for their kids?!  Haha!  Here are some pics.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I have always been one to save money rather than spend it.  I used to really get into using coupons and planning my shopping trips.  No extreme couponer by any means, but saving a bunch of money really brought me a sense of accomplishment.  After we had Sophie, I was still pretty good about it, but when Sally came, things just got, well, busy.  If I even found the time to plan a few meals and make a grocery list, I felt pretty on top of things.  However, I have been wanting for a while now to really get back to watching our spending a little more.  We have never tried a cash envelope system, but I thought it would be a good idea.  I kept telling myself, "Okay, next month, I will get that organized."  Then next month would come around, and I wouldn't get to it.  I think my procrastination was related in part to fear.  Fear that it wouldn't work well.  Fear that we couldn't keep up with it.  But more than being afraid, I am MOTIVATED to help our family save money and pay off the rest of our debt from school.  These first couple of months using the system will just be to kind of work out the kinks and make sure we've allotted an appropriate amount of money to each category.  If you are unfamiliar with the system, here is how it works.  You create an envelope for various spending categories.  When you run out of money for one category, you can "borrow" from another if it is absolutely necessary.  For us, most of our bills are automatically debited from our bank account, so the categories I created are ones that tend to fluctuate more:  groceries (this category includes cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, etc.), eating out, toiletries and medical, random (this category is for expenses like oil changes for the cars and other things that come up each month that we don't necessarily think about ahead of time).  Rather than envelopes, I am using a small plastic index filing container that we used to use for recipes.

As I was planning our budget, I wondered how similar or different our numbers were to other peoples.  I don't mind sharing my numbers with you.  Some of the numbers might surprise you, but we are committed to buying only things we really need (and every now and then some wants too).  And, like I said, these first few months are to just test the numbers out, so we'll see how it goes.  Here they are:
Groceries: $300
Out to eat: $25 
Entertainment: $10
Random: $145
Medical and Toiletries: $45

So, WHAT can 2 people do even just once a month on $10 for entertainment, you ask?  Well, we have a movie store down the road that has $1 rentals.  Our family went to the zoo one day for a little over $5.  We will probably have to get creative and think of ways to find fun things to do without spending money.  We can use several gift cards or coupons we have.  Also, if we don't eat out much (which we hardly do anyway, this part of the budget is really for Ryan if he doesn't have a lunch packed for school and has to spend money to buy a lunch somewhere), then we can use that money for entertainment.  As far as babysitting goes, we tend to have a lot of "date nights" at home after the babies are in bed.  (We play games, cook, watch movies, or have friends over. ) We also have some wonderful friends and a great set of grandparents who offer to babysit for free from time to time.  We are SO grateful for that!  If we did have to get a sitter for some reason, it would come out of the random category.  The only category I am a little uncertain about is the grocery one.  We'll see.  I am trying to plan meals around low cost recipes, but we also like to buy organic milk and produce, so that kind of increases the expenses somewhat.  I also find that, for the kinds of foods I buy, there really aren't very many coupons.  $300 is our goal anyway, so we will strive toward it!  Wish us luck!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I just changed the look of my blog, but sometimes, when I go to it, it doesn't show the new font.  Would you tell me if you see "Our Family" in a cursive style font and the rest of the blog text in a different font than times new roman?  Thanks!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Church for us lately. . .

Anyone who has ever moved to a new city and tried to find a new church knows what a hard thing it can be to accomplish.  And anyone who has ever tried to do it with kids knows how much harder they make it!  Somebody is always sick or picks something up in the nursery.  And then, when you visit a church, you really only get a snapshot.  What if this Sunday was just an off day?  What if we are missing out if we don't come back?  Then you find one you like or that at least could "work" and then it turns out not to be what you had in mind.  We have been looking for a church in our new home town for a little less than a year now.  We had been visiting a church that we thought we liked, but decided it wasn't where we wanted to be.  This is actually the first time in our marriage that Ryan and I have chosen a church together.  When we were in Dallas, we just attended the church where he had been singing in the choir for a number of years.  We made some great friends there and have very fond memories of that church.  Trying to find a balance between what I desire in a church with what Ryan desires is a bit challenging since we came from different church styles growing up.  He enjoys liturgy, a good choir, and a more traditional service all around.  I enjoy a more contemporary style service.  The thing that we decided was important to us both, though, was sound, thought-provoking teaching and a community in the church where we felt like we could get involved.  This summer, I was talking with a friend of mine who had also recently moved here.  She and her husband were also looking for a church home.  They had been attending her husband's church where he grew up as well as a larger group Bible study (which would become a church plant a few months down the road).  One thing she said that made me think was, "Yeah, we like my husband's old church, but I really think they need us more at the Bible study."  I thought, huh--how interesting.  Choosing a church based on what you can BRING to it rather than what it can GIVE to you.  I thought her perspective might be due to the fact that she did not grow up in the U.S.  American culture is brand new to her.  Hence, this whole idea of "church shopping" wasn't something she was really focused on.  I mean, I think it is important to look for a church that fits you, but what if we all went to church thinking about how we might serve others there.  And then I thought, "Well, we are in a stage of life where that kind of giving is hard.  We have two little girls.  They take up all our time."  This is also true.  But it does not necessarily mean that we have nothing to give.  Fast forward a few months.  Ryan and I start attending this Bible study/church plant and we really like it!  The teaching is awesome, and it is very small.  Everyone knows everyone, so when we visited, SO many people came up to talk to us because it was obvious we were new. We plan to continue going there and are excited to finally have a church home.  Like I said, I was thinking that we were just in a season of not being able to give much, but God totally changed my perspective about that this past Sunday.  It is BECAUSE we are in this season that we are ABLE to give.  Here is what I mean.  There are quite a few young couples in the church, but we are some of the few (maybe one or two others) who have young kids.  There are, however, quite a few pregnant couples.  The pastor and his wife being one (they are due any day now).  Ryan had mentioned to me how it would be nice to make them a meal when the baby came.  I agreed, since people had blessed us in ABUNDANCE with meals when Sophie came.  We felt so cared for.  So, I felt prompted to ask his wife if someone had organized meals for them.  Long story short, someone sort of had, but I was able to introduce them to Meal Train which would simplify things greatly for them.  So, we will be bringing them a meal, but what God allowed me to see is that I  (and probably Ryan) have a heart for other parents.  Because we are in this tough season of life with our babies, my heart goes out to other moms.  I know how hard it can be.  I know what a blessing it is to connect with other moms.  I know what a blessing it is for someone to watch your little one for a bit so you can go to the grocery store or go on a date with your husband.  I think that God has given me a heart for mothers and he wants me to use it to bless other moms I meet in the church we are going to and anywhere else.  It really excites to me think about serving people in that way.  Isn't it funny how God  can use us the most when we think we don't have ANY time or energy to give to something else.  For me, I end up getting extra energy from serving.  Point in case: last night after church, I came home with a ton of energy and ended up painting the final coat of paint in our entire basement (which is a lot of surface area).  I think part of this energy came from getting a break from caring for the babies, but it also came from this revelation that God can use me where I am in life to help others!  I am excited to see how it will play out.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Zoo!

Yesterday our family was just meant to go to the zoo.  Here is what I mean:  The other day, Ryan was thinking he'd take the day off from school.  I started thinking how maybe we should go to the zoo that day.  And then, after we had already decided to go to the zoo, we found out that the zoo has "winter Wednesdays" where tickets are only $2.50.  The girls would be free, so the whole trip would be super inexpensive and super fun!  And it was.  I am thankful God blesses us with fun family time like we had today.  This was the first time either Sophie or Sally had been to the zoo.  Sophie is at the PERFECT age for it.  She already knows a lot of animal names, and she was just fascinated by seeing them in real life.  Sally enjoyed it too, but generally, she just wanted to run around all over the place.  Of course, Sally decided to wake up an hour early today, so around noon, she had passed out in the stroller--sitting up.  This meant that she exchanged her normally 2-3 hour long nap for a 20-minute one in the stroller as we were finishing up our outing.  Sophie also decided not to nap today, so it made for an interesting evening to say the least!  They both went to bed earlier though, and are now sound asleep.  One funny thing to note-- Sophie and Sally are both learning English along with some Spanish (Ryan and I both speak it fairly well).  So, a lot of the animal names that Sophie knows are the Spanish ones.  It was funny to see peoples' reactions as they listened to her repeat the name over and over in Spanish.  I am sure some were thinking, "sweet girl, she is calling it something strange!" while others who spoke Spanish may have been wondering how our completely caucasian family came to teach our children the Spanish names for the animals rather than the English ones.  Oh well.  Here are some fun pictures.  We didn't take a whole lot, but we did get the "elefantes," Sophie's favorite.

 Just an extra one of Sally showing off her new rug.  We got more photos of Sophie than Sally at the zoo.