Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Aiming for $7,500 by the end of July!

I took my first step in this journey on February 5th of this year when I put $1,000 in an Emergency Fund and made my first big payments toward my debt. It is now almost five months later and I have paid off a grand total of...


Wooohooo!!! I broke $6k!! I'm going to aim for $7,500 to be paid off by the end of July. It is an aggressive goal for the next month, but I want to be half-way to my $15,000 goal by the end of my first six months of really working at this. I haven't been working as hard as I could have been at times, but I need to keep my nose to the proverbial grindstone.

Speaking of challenges, have you read the most recent report on the cost of raising a child? The average American family spends $222,360 to raise a child from birth to age 18. My cherubs being born a mere two minutes apart means that I have the divine privilege of spending somewhere in the vicinity of $444,720 before I give them the boot. I'm pretty sure they're mostly going to eat nine of the next fourteen years of my income with the way they go through pints of berries and cherry tomatoes. We're going to have to find a way to expand our farm off of this little apartment deck.

Don't get me wrong. They're worth every penny, but the girls were born as a two-for-one deal and I'm going to do everything I can to keep those deals going. Either I'm going to have to be diligent about my frugality or they're going to have to find a way to break into showbiz. Maybe we should try a two-fold approach. That's it. We're starting a band. Please leave your band name suggestions in the comments below.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Growing some green.

Just look at all that green!  Do you think that's going to grow into a twenty- or a fifty-dollar bill?

The peas are budding.  The tomatoes smell amazing.  The petunias appear to be a richer shade of purple every time a new one blooms.  The girls are loving our little garden in the sky.  It was a little difficult to convince them that we didn't need to water all the plants last week when we had a lot of rain, but they'll be happy when the sun is out again and we can get back to spending more time outside.

I'm so close to the $6k mark.  I hate being this close without quite making it and having to wait two more weeks!  It does, however, give me some motivation to work a little harder and earn a little more for the next paycheck.

Speaking of motivators, I've been listening to Rebound.  Rebound is a podcast by a couple who is working to pay off their debt.  It's always fun to hear what kinds of inexpensive fun they've come up with lately and hear what challenges and successes they've encountered in their journey.  They're doing a giveaway of some Dave Ramsey schwag right now.

Kid quote of the week:  (In response to my suggestion that my daughter drop her attitude.)  I DO NOT.  HAVE.  A.  BANANATUDE!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

With a pair of bottomless pits to feed, what is a single mom on a budget to do?? Welcome to FarmVille.

My kids are weird. Yes, it's true that the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, but even so, there are things about the girls that baffle me. For instance, they love vegetables. They only want the spinach from their spinach and cheese quesadillas. They bypass cookies and crackers in favor of carrots and cherry tomatoes. Weird, right?

I came across a New York Times article that cited a study that found "energy-dense munchies cost on average $1.76 per 1,000 calories, compared with $18.16 per 1,000 calories for low-energy but nutritious foods." (Parker-Pope) The article is from 2007, so you can probably imagine what has happened to those prices since then with the increase in fuel prices. The whole article is a pretty interesting read.

Because produce and other healthy foods can be so expensive, I have been brainstorming some ways to make a healthy diet more affordable for my family. Our first step has been to start a garden on our apartment deck. We're growing blueberries, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, and a variety of bell peppers. There may be more later in the season. We'll be trading any extras with friends that are growing abundant gardens. I'll add some pictures of our garden as soon as it's all planted and off my kitchen table.

I thought about purchasing a share in a local CSA Farm (Community Supported Agriculture) in exchange for weekly or bi-weekly produce delivery, but they all delivered a lot more than I would know what to do with in that amount of time. Rather than risk anything going to waste, we'll be making regular trips to the local farmers markets this summer to pick out fresh, local produce to supplement our garden spoils. We've always come home with a lot of amazing fruits and vegetables and found really great deals.

Do you make and can your own pasta sauce? Do you swap unused pantry items with friends? Do you have a dairy cow for a pet? If there are things that you are doing to help keep your food budget under control, I'd love to hear it!

Food Budget Tip for New Parents: Make your own baby food!! It's cheap, it's healthy, and you know exactly what's in it. Super Baby Food was an awesome resource when the girls were teensy. It lets you know at what age you can introduce just about anything and tells you how to prepare it. All it takes is a food processor and some ice cube trays and you're set. Prepare your produce (wash, cook/mash, etc.), throw it in the food processor, then pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. Once it's frozen, pop out the cubes and put them into zip-loc bags and keep them in the freezer until you need them. Then you just have to grab a cube or two and reheat. I made a big batch of a different flavor every weekend so I always had a variety of flavors on hand and only had to do about 30 minutes of work per week.
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