Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Budget Shopping...

It has recently come to my attention that I... perhaps suck at budgeting. 
Simple concept really, spend less than what you make.  How easy is that?  Not very apparently.
We have had some very tight times in our marriage.  Yet somehow I was able to navigate those without much trouble.  Some freak outs, fits and tantrums but I still made it work.  We have even survived unemployment with and without benefits.
Now however, I seem to be creating a mess. 
Because of my desperate need to get back on track and save we have begun working with a financial planner. 
(Free through my husband's work.) 
I'm not sure what I think of this process.  Actually, I do know... I find it completely annoying.  I wanted him to be able to look at our finances and come up with some ideas.  Instead he kind of shrugged and didn't seem to have much for answers other than saying we need to beef up life insurance and estate plan.  Thank you Captain Obvious, that however takes money.
So like I have many times in the past I began scouring blogs, the finance sections of papers and magazines and trying hard to use common sense. 
Our fixed expenses are just that... pretty fixed.  There is not much room for change.  Well... there are going to be changes but they take a little time (refi's, changes in insurance, and discontinuing a few services that are not 100% necessary and whatever else I may find).
But something I can try and control is our grocery and personal care expenses. 
So I began tracking what I was spending in these two areas with my nifty Quicken software. 
Wow.  That was a little bit of a shock. 
I mean I know we eat well and all but I didn't realize that we were spending that much.
We had completely eliminated eating out when my husband lost his job at the beginning of the year.  With taking that expense out I didn't pay much attention to the grocery spending because with eliminating that expense I was obviously saving.  And I was... but I was also having to spend a bit more on the grocery budget to make up for all of those take out nights.
So in my efforts to become more fiscally responsible I began to try to shop with lists.  Okay, that was a total flop and didn't work.  I can not look through my house and come up with a list.  I don't know why, I just can't.  It apparently takes too much effort. 
So I decided to make backwards lists... if that makes any sense.  I sat down and thought of the stores that I shop and how the stores are laid out, what departments are where and what products are in each area. 
From there... I got this...
A checklist of things I use... further broken down by store. 
This is a copy of our personal care/household supplies that we use.  These are items I purchase at the Dollar General.   
This list also helped me learn to use coupons.  I had tried in the past to use coupons but always gave up because when  you are only buying store brand... well why would you need coupons.  But!  This list  helped me figure it out and make it work for me and showed me I am a little bit of a brand snob on some things.
Each Monday morning at work I get dropped off the inserts of the weekend papers.  I sit down at lunch and clip all of the coupons in there.  From there I sort the coupons into two categories... food and personal care items.  Next I sort the coupons further down into more piles.  The personal care coupons for example are sorted into three piles. 
First, the brands that we do use.  These are the items that I am a brand snob on such as toothpaste, the dogs food or my shampoo and conditioner.  These coupons go in one envelope and are set aside.
The next pile is the items that I am not a brand snob on.  My husband's shave cream or body wash.  These are items that price will be the determining factor on what brand I purchase.  They go into their marked envelope.
The final pile is first aide and medicine cabinet items.  These are items that I am not going to buy unless someone is coming down with something... so it's best to hold onto these just in case.  I used to keep a stocked medicine cabinets but found after cleaning it out one day that the majority of the items were going into the trash rather than used so it really is only necessary for me to keep minimal supplies on hand.
Okay, so... now... how the two work together.  Finally... I know.
I print out a copy of my list and look through the house.  I check off what we are low on or out of and sit down with the envelopes of coupons.  I first look through the envelope that contains the brands we use.  If we need toothpaste, I pull out the coupon for Colgate... and so on.  Once I have completed this envelope I attach all of the corresponding coupons to the list.  I then move on to the next envelope of the items that brand is not as important.  If we need toilet paper, I pull all of the coupons I have for toilet paper and put them into another envelope.  When I'm done I may have 5 coupons for toilet paper, what one I use, if any, will be determined once I get to the store.  No one is sick so no need to look at the first-aide coupons.  Perfect. 
Finally, off to the store with my coupons clipped to the list and my envelope full of coupons!
This method has kept me from over and under purchasing items that lead to stockpiles or shortages that cause additional trips to pick up one thing... that leads to 10 items by the time I check out. 

Monday, September 17, 2012


I am a junk fanatic.  I'm horrible about dragging junk into our house.  I am constantly filling our garage, basement and front porch with junk. 
The amazing thing is my husband keeps the complaining about this to a minimum.  As long as he is not hitting his shins off of something, he's okay with this.  In our 10 years of marriage we have purchased about five items from a furniture store new; two sofas, an ottoman and three mattress and box spring sets if you'd like to know.  So I think this helps to influence his acceptance of my junk collecting.
I get junk from all over. 
My work is one great place to score good junk.  While my children were very small they destroyed the first furniture store purchased sofa during nap time by falling asleep and wetting through diapers.  After having to throw away that sofa (it was a clearance sofa sleeper - complete score for only $200) I became frustrated and decided I would just bring ugly old couches home from work until we were out of this stage before I would buy new again.  We went through 4 of them. 
Goodwill is always a great place to score great items but I just don't make it there all that much anymore. 
Auctions are fabulous and so is Craigslist.  Even better is that I can get my husband to make the trips and do all of the dirty work for me.
I am also not afraid to pull something out of someones trash.  Ummm... okay, I'm not afraid to ask my mom to go pull something out of someones trash. 
But I think my favorite place to go is flea markets. 
And this weekend, that is where I was.  My mother-in-law loaded up early and were off to a giant bi-annual flea market near my home.  It was a fabulous day spent with great company doing something that both of us love.
My morning had been going a little slow until I found my dream booth.  A friendly, fun fella named Dave who was willing to deal on everything he had.  Dave had great junk and I found several large pieces I wanted but the best one I found was a large, mustard yellow, jelly cupboard.  When I saw it I immediately had a million ideas for this cabinet.  It would be awesome in a bathroom for towels or the upstairs hallway for extra bed linens and blankets or... my kitchen!
Yes, my kitchen, my ity bitty kitchen with very little cabinet or counter space and bags of groceries sitting next to the fridge because there is no room left in the cabinets. 
At the end of our galley kitchen there is a small eat-in area that is the only wall without windows or doors. 

It was the only logical place for the cabinet to go.
I'm still unsure if my window chalkboard will be staying or going.
But I do believe I have the perfect space for my junk cabinet.

Friday, September 14, 2012

DIY Floor Refinishing

I had mentioned that our dining room floor was a nightmare. 
After removing this icky carpet...
I found this...

And quickly went into a panic.
It is typical in my house for me to announce I am going to do something and for my husband to tell me what a horrible idea he thinks it is.  This happens to be one of those such things.
However, I did have reasonable expectations that this would go okay.  I had removed all of the rest of the carpeting from the house and the wood was fine.  Not perfect but certainly better than someone else's dirty old carpet.
I tried everything to remove this black padding that was glued to the floor.
I scrubbed.
I Googled.
And scrubbed.
And Googled.
I tried to remove it with a putty knife.
Nothing worked and my Google searches were coming up empty!
And finally after two days of sitting in the middle of this stinky filth... it dawned on me.
How had I not thought of this sooner?!
So I loaded up and headed to the hardware store.
(Admittedly, this should have been my first stop.)
While I was there looking for furniture stripper, I found this...
And rented this...
Really, why didn't I come here first?!
When I got home I liberally applied the adhesive remover to the entire floor.  The black padding and adhesive started to bubble immediately and was all removed within a half hour.
Really... I sat there for two days, and this was all it took.
After letting the floor dry I began sanding and within a few hours was finished.
I had thought long and hard about 15 min. while I was in the store about how I wanted to finish the floor. 
The floor is the original to the home, small planked, oak wood floor.  Normally,  you do not see these types of floors stained.  But... I really do not care for oak all that much.  So I decided I was going to stain my floor.
I chose a dark redish color and began applying with old rags.
After the first coat I decided I needed to go a little darker so I applied a second.
After the second coat of stain it was time to begin sealing the floor.
I applied 4 coats of floor polyurethane over several days to the floor, gently sanding the floor in between coats with steal wool and cleaning with a tac cloth to remove any debris.
(Each coat of polyurethane must dry for 8 hours before the next coat can be applied.)
The final result... a beautiful restored wood floor.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Dining Room

Do you ever roam aimlessly from one room to the next in your house starting projects and leaving a wake of half completed rooms in the process?
This is my problem.  I constantly do this.  But, in a house that needs EVERYTHING one thing flows to the next and the next and nothing ever seems to get completed.
Recently I started working in my dining room (again), that then lead me to the living room, swapping bedrooms around and now a home office.   Funny how painting one little room created such havoc.
This is how our dining room looked when we first moved in. 
I painted over this color right away and removed the carpet expecting to find a matching hardwood floor to the living room.
Well, sorta wrong.  The floor was under there but first I needed to remove the very old and smelly black padding that was glued to the floor to get to it.
Anyway, the floor is a whole 'nother post.
My first paint color choice for this room was an epic fail.  It took me several months to find what direction I wanted to go in there.  I kept trying for blues and grays but realized, they do not work for me.  I love them, just not in this house.
So the dining room sat.
And sat.
And sat.
For a year.
All the while I had been collecting things here or there when I spotted a good deal or saw something I liked.
I found these chairs along the way.
And this buffet.
So after a year of the dining room being nothing more than a great room to practice your Ninja moves without worry of bumping into anything... I got started.
I painted, I cleaned, I got rid of crap I dropped in the room because I just didn't know what to do with it, but... then I found something I can't just get rid of... my husband! 
We have a very large computer armoire that sits in the dining room that he spends hours at working or doing homework for his Master's Degree.
That's a dilemma.
I needed to find somewhere else to stick him.
So, that is how we come to swapping bedrooms and working on a home office. 
All of that because I wanted to paint the dining room and make it into a useful space.
So, I still can't complete the dining room until I evict my tenant in the corner.  But, today the dining room is looking something like this...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Fun

This summer has passed so quickly! 

I'm not sure where to start to explaining my compete absence.

Our time has been spent running from one activity to the next.  Primarily baseball and swimming.  Big time killers.  Three kids in three leagues, and three classes... you get the picture.

Next, I decided to buy the kids one of those horrible ugly blue pools that you see in yards.  I cannot believe how many hours I spend working on, cleaning or occasionally laying in this pool!

My garden... okay, I lie, that consumes none of my time.  It is a horrible overgrown, full of weeds mess that I never would have planted had I known how much time the pool would consume.

Reading, I have spent hours reading this summer.  I've read some very good books, some hyped up okay books and some that I just could not wait to reach the end.

And finally, I have not had Internet for over 2 months!  Okay, sort of.  I have not had wireless for over two months, and I only use wireless.  We are very territorial over electronics in my home, my husband and I refuse to share.  So... over two months.... possibly longer now that I think about it... without checking blogs, Facebook or general dinking around.  Since he had access on his desktop, this was not a priority to him and this drug out forever. 

But!  With all of that time I had on my hands without Internet access... I was able to start into some much needed projects!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dresser Repourpose

My oldest son has been in desperate need of a new dresser for some time now.  When we lived in our old house and he moved into his 'big boy' room I had bought him a dresser online from Kohls.  Do NOT purchase furniture online.  Even though it had a rather hefty price tag attached, it was a complete disappointment.  I should have returned it but instead decided it would do. 


It was far too small and poorly made.  But it served its purpose for a few years.

Now that he is nearly 9, his clothes are far to big to fit in the tiny dresser so there has grown to be piles in his room of clean laundry because of this. 

Craigslist... shall I consider you my favorite furniture store? 

I think I will.

Enter this little gem.

Pardon my lack of before photos.  My little helpers were faster than I and quickly had the drawers taken out and drug into the yard for me to begin. 

But, you sort of get the picture. 

When I began my hunt for a dresser I was looking for something with minimal scalloping and detail since this would be going into a boys room.  This one pretty much fit the bill.

But after several days of work.  The dresser went from this...

To this...

This was a rather easy process.  Just time consuming but well worth the effort.

First, the dresser had to sit for several days on our covered front porch to 'air out' since it came from a heavily smoked in home.  I filled it with Pier 1 fragrance packs to help with the smell.  It did the trick.  If airing the piece out does not work, try painting the drawers if you end up in this predicament after sending your husband to pick something up and him lacking the common sense to call you first and see if this would be okay.

The next step was to give the entire dresser a good sanding.  Followed by a coat of primer and three coats of black paint.  I used Rust-Oleum American Accents, Canyon Black.  It's my go to black for almost any project requiring black paint. 

(There is also a lack of 'in progress' pictures of this project since I had the help of a 7 and 5 year old.)

I don't generally like painting with a roller as most people will recommend when painting furniture.  Most people will recommend this to avoid brush strokes, I however prefer to paint with a brush because the tiny little marks a roller makes... drives me more nuts.  The trick to a good paint job with a brush is the brush itself.  Buy a GREAT brush.  I like Purdy brushes.  Stolen from my husband's paint supplies... it results in some grumbling but they do great and don't leave marks that a cheaper brush would.

After the three coats of black paint had dried and were cured I did a light sanding to all of the edges.  This is going in a boys room... ultimately, it will be damaged in some ways so it is best for me to opt for distressing prior to make any damages it sustains later not seem so obvious.

After sanding, I then applied stain to the distressed areas and then began coating the entire dresser in two coats of Minwax Paste Finishing Wax.  I opted to use the Finishing Wax on the dresser rather than poly to buff away any imperfections and reach my achieved finish.

The last thing needed was hardware.  After a failed trip to Menards to look for hardware... I began to search online.  The hardware at Menards was roughly eight dollars a handle.  Far too much for my $40 Craigslist dresser.  That would be silly to spend more on the hardware than the dresser itself.

After some looking I found handles that would work perfectly at www.knobsandhardware.com

The handles that were $8ish at Menards were $1.20 online with free shipping.  Score!

Total cost for the entire project...

Roughly $70.

Beautiful isn't it?

Linking to...


What I've Learned

Everyone knows the saying... God doesn't give you any more than you can handle.

Well... God needs to back off because I do believe I am at my breaking point.

Last week we lost our baby. 


Absolutely Crushing.

Our baby number four that we were so looking forward to is gone.  We were at 16 weeks gestation and are the minority of people who have a second trimester miscarriage. 

I have learned some crazy things during this process. 

First, people who have never experienced such a loss... who try to tell you they 'understand' or 'know what your feeling' are well intentioned IDIOTS.  I am sorry, no, you do not 'understand' or 'know' because until you have experienced such a loss or delivered your tiny tiny baby at home with only you and your husband, you will never know.

Second, even if, prior to loosing a pregnancy, you ever felt that it was for the better if nature took it's course if there would be problems later... you were WRONG.  So wrong.  Because such a loss makes you realize that no matter what, you would have fought to the end for your child.

Third, those people who really unfortunately do understand and know... you are now part of their club.  Not in a bad way, but it effects them so strongly, they will cry with you and cry for you.

Fourth, everything else suddenly seems so stupid.  Completely stupid.  And because of this, biting your tongue becomes incredibly difficult.  Especially when your first day back to work you are flooded with phone calls within the first hour... from adults... fighting over trash bags.... yes, trash bags.

Fifth, nothing in your life can make you challenge God like something happening to one of your babies.  It's been a hard year for us.  A very hard year.  When my dad died, I did not waiver, when the word cancer came back up, I had faith, my husband looses his job, God will make sure we are okay.  This however... makes me angry.  Very angry.

Sixth, MORONS HAVE CHILDREN!  You really begin to notice just how many stupid asses have babies after something like this happens.  I mean really really stupid people have these beautiful babies that they barely take care of, treat horribly or don't deserve.  And this... is unfair.

Seventh, nothing can make you appreciate your beautiful family more than something like this.