Pushing through…

Disclaimer: If you are in a cheery holiday mood this could bring you down, my apologies. I have found myself broken in tears not once but twice today, so I need to get this out there now, get it off my chest then get back in the kitchen, and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Two years ago, in Vermont my Dad made one of our famous in-and-out trips to Vermont for Thanksgiving weekend. He got to meet his newest granddaughter, our Charli-bear and he let my 4 month gnaw on a meat bone, lol. She loved it. We spent hours sitting around the table talking, reminiscing and just being together. I’ve always cherished our conversations around the table, but this year that memory is haunting. On Monday, our family welcomed another beautiful baby. Little Mason is my Dad’s 9th grandchild and 4th grandson. He looks just like his beautiful mama and I’m overjoyed for our family but I’m also sad; well, sad on top of sad if I’m being honest…

You know that feeling when you know you really need to do something and it will be really good for you but for some reason you keep putting it off or rejecting it. It’s as if we psychologically make the choice to stay in a funk. I didn’t mean to do this but I guess it’s exactly what I did and have been doing. Perhaps a good cry would have been the ticket to feeling better and getting it all out but because self-suffering seems my choice these days I’ve just continued to push through. Clearly, today…well actually Sunday, my mind and body said, enough.

Needless to say I’ve been struggling. Heading into the holidays has made me miss my Dad terribly. On Sunday after days of putting it off, out of nowhere the tears just began to stream. I had been putting it off because I knew once they started they’d be hard to stop, and they certainly were. I don’t want to hate this time of year. I love this time of year. The smells, the sounds, the family togetherness. Growing up, even in our families most trying of moments, it always, always came down to us being together. Fighting to be together. Loving being together and there really was nothing like being together. I miss him. I miss him as deeply as the pain in the moment I received the call. It’s an awkward position to be in. See, I know the reaction people have. I’m so self-aware that I get it. It’s the first holidays without him, of course “it will be hard, but it will get better.” “You just have to keep going that’s what he would’ve wanted.” “Life goes on, tomorrow’s another day.” Honestly, and with all do respect, all of these cliches are absolutely meaningless to me right now. I’m selfish and I want him here.
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Lunch and Learn All About Savings.

I promised a follow-up post on the saving money luncheon I went to. It was awesome. It wasn’t what I had thought it would be though. I was under the impression it was holiday saving and strategy on tackling the shopping season, but the primary focus was on groceries. This is still beneficial though. I learned a lot about area grocery stores and couponing. 
 
Personally, I’ve never been a couponer nor have I ever had the drive to. It’s simply not something I’ve wanted ever to do. I don’t have the head or calendar space for the time that goes into it and I absolutely don’t have the room in my house for 18 bottles of shampoo. Perhaps I’m a minimalist in the sense that I don’t want things I don’t need. Why get something for free just because it’s free? Yes, this may go against much of the thought process of the American way of life, but I’d rather invest in something that we will need and use. If I wasn’t going to buy 10 razors without the coupon why would I do it with? That’s time and energy for something I wasn’t even interested in before. Furthermore, time is money and in the sense of the time spent couponing- holy cow it’s expensive. With all of that being said however, she did provide some good insight and now I have a local resource that I can cross check every week for Triangle deals. Here are the helpful tips and tricks I did learn:
 
*$20-25 a week, pp is the average amount that Americans should be spending for groceries
Great news for us because our budget is $300 a month. FANTASTIC! I am happy to report that without extreme couponing I was able to plan a month’s worth of groceries for a family of 4 and a holiday feast for 7 for under $350. Not to mention I got a 20lb turkey for $9.22 HAPPY MAMA!
 
*Make time to go to multiple stores for the biggest bang for your buck.
Yes, I said that I don’t have time for extreme couponing, I don’t. However I do make grocery shopping a Mommy’s Day out when I can and plan out my route and where I am going for what. It does help to maximize my budget and with almost every store having some sort of gas rewards we have multiple rewards for use rather than just a one-fill up savings. Not to mention it’s a couple hours in what I refer to as the amusement park for moms. Seriously, it sounds funny but I never appreciated the quiet serenity of a grocery store shopping trip by myself until my two beautiful girls showed me what the opposite looks like 🙂
 
*Make lists: Menu lists and grocery lists
The presenter actually shops from her pantry and freezer first and then goes to the grocery for the best deals. What I typically do is the flip. We wind up using all of our food then I shop the best deals and only make my menu items from what I have. My perspective is that this keeps me from having to restock half way through the month on the essentials. Her perspective is that food doesn’t get wasted. I may start doing both. 
 
*BIG TIP! Walmart is the only legit grocer that will pay you back. This means if you have a coupon for $1.00 off that boxed cake mix but it’s on sale for $0.75 they will give you the difference back or apply to the rest of your balance. 
I think this is huge. Now a key, and entertaining question, was do their cashier’s know about it? lol The answer was well, some may not but the extreme couponer giving the presentation actually keeps a copy of the coupon policy in her purse. I don’t know if that’s worth it but with today’s technology you could probably access it pretty easily. 
 
For any area readers check out the News and Observers Centsible Saver weekly for updates. It’s a really informative blog written by a journalist who actually is paid to save. Pretty cool.

Some quick $ tips AND a healthy fix for that late night sweet tooth!

If there is one super easy way to save money and a target habit to change for money-saving, it’s eliminating those mid-week grocery trips. The smaller costs add up to so much more than 2 big bulk trips per month. With that being said, things  are getting ‘slim pickins’ in the fridge; because I menu plan (another great tip to stretch a budget) this means we have plenty of food to get through the week but all the “good stuff” is gone.  So tonight, while Brent was pining the cupboards I followed behind him getting creative. I always have a bakers stock, chocolate chips, cocoa, vanilla, etc. The girls had some graham crackers, cheerios, lol none of which he was interested in-especially if it took a bit of effort. I don’t blame him for this by the time we finally get to sit at night it’s late, and we are total bums. Per usual, there was a wee bit of coffee leftover from this morning and we always throw it out, which bugs me by the way-so I decided to make a homemade frugal spin on cappuccino. I heated up 1/2 cup of vanilla almond milk for 2 mins in the microwave then added it to the less than 1/2 cup of coffee (not espresso-just leftover morning joe), topped it off with a splash of coffee creamer and it was AMAZING! Unfortunately there wasn’t enough coffee for 2 so we shared, but what an easy and super quick fix for a late night craving and pretty healthy too…even better!

Until next time…ox

So much with so little…direction that is.

I feel like I have so much to write about and yet I’m struggling to prioritize my thoughts. I’ll begin with a bit of a teaser, I am really taking on the holidays with full-frugality in mind. So much so, that I am actually attending a brown bag work luncheon titled “Spending and Saving This Holiday Season” needless to say, stay tuned. I will be sure to post shortly thereafter. This year is actually the first year I haven’t started holiday shopping. Yikes. I usually start in September/October and tend to be finished by Dec. 1. Not this year though, this year is about creativity and budget, budget, budget. I have some great ideas for gifts that I can’t post just yet, because many of these recipients are my beloved followers; but I am really excited about them and cannot wait to share everything.

In other news, we have put all of our moving costs behind us (knock on wood) and have buckled down for the month of November. It’s always an interesting transition or so we were told, little did we know until we went through it how many little surprises came along with the investment. I digress, although I don’t know what lies ahead I’m pleased to say we were able to pay what needed to be paid and on time. Groceries for this month will be interesting but another reason to stay detail oriented about each purchase.

November Challenge: To not exceed our max grocery budget of $300 this includes a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 6.

To follow-up on a past post, I have not forgotten about my bucket list. In fact I have been thinking a lot about it. The truth is, I’ve never given as much thought to having one before and am learning quite a bit about myself in the meantime. This is something else I would like to post on as it’s own when it’s complete; but for now I will simply say that the most revealing self-reflection I have had lately is how little some of the more streamlined “big bucket items” mean to me. Seriously, no one reading here is surprised that I’m not going to risk jumping out of an airplane however even I thought I might have a risky bone somewhere but alas not so much. I could careless about even a ferris wheel. Instead so far I have come up with things such as finding a 4 leaf clover, having a bonfire on the beach and getting my doctorate…

And there it is, the next big subject of grown-up conversation at the Fowler Farm these days. Baby or degree, what will it be? We can’t afford either and they both come with a long-term commitment. They both require sacrifice to/for the family; in time, sleep, money, the list goes on; but even superwoman isn’t crazy enough to do both. Brent and I have gone back and forth about it and discussed it at great lengths with no final decision. The timing of the program I’m interested in is perfect but I’m terrified. I haven’t been a student for a long time and I’m beyond intimidated. As for the baby our family is beautiful just as it is. I clearly remember “not ever wanting to do this again.” lol but I also know that pregnancy is familiar territory and when our girls are grown I will have wished we had more- not in the sense to have babies after babies. It’s not about the little life in our house constantly, although this is precious, but rather in the sense that they have each other as they are older. If I have learned anything this year it’s been how much I need my sisters. And I love the idea of big family gatherings with tons of grandchildren (talk about a prime bucket list item). However, the flip side to all of this is our “unit” works really well the way it is; and we love our sleep. We are almost all the way out of diaper duty (no pun intended) and the savings is starting to climb. No more baby food, no more diapers and in less than a year we will save 50% in childcare costs because Madz starts school. If I begin a doctoral program I’m committed, by choice. The university will pay for it but it will take up to 6 years on their dime perhaps longer, talk about daunting. I realize I am young and could always go back and do both but that’s not for me or for our family. I’m a big proponent of timing and I think I know where this whole thing is going but it’s terrifying and exciting all at once and most importantly once the final choice is made we are certain, for us, it’ll be a final one. Oh and did I mention the cloud of conversation hanging over my head? It was the last father’s day I spent with my Dad in 2012, he looked at me and said, “you need to have another, at least try to give Brent a boy.” Thanks, Dad. Talk about pressure. I will say, that while this cloud is there I’m pretty certain Brent was meant to have all girls so it’s almost a moot point. We have our hands full. Regardless we have some tough decisions to make.

At the end of this post I was hoping to have some clarity, no such luck. I still lack direction and feel pretty scattered I can’t imagine trying to follow along lol. If you’re still reading, my apologies for the winding road of thought you just traveled. I promise to close the loop over time.

As always, stay tuned. ox

“those” moments

We are all guilty of them and today I’m having one, a moment. When a great day can be quickly halted by the reality. Today, I was trying to seize the day without thinking too much about cost but it’s me, so of course I’m still being pretty frugal, I took Madz for hot chocolate using a gift card I was given then spent $12 on haircuts (total for both of us) at the local cosmetology school. The most expensive part of the day was lunch and that was because I thought it would be nice to do it as a family. Being mindful of expenses, I did a quick check-in on the bank account. Overall it was fine, but it wasn’t what I thought it should be. I know we have output  a lot in the past couple of months and we are still adjusting to our new bills and bill schedule, but it’s disheartening when you think you have a good grip on something and then it doesn’t meet the expectation. It’s a huge disruption to the day, to my mood and to my stress level. I hate that it can have such an affect but it’s the reality of it. I remember watching my Dad in frustration about money, especially when you work so hard, but today I can relate. And honestly, it sucks. 😦

The Trick was a Treat!

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Well, I pulled the fast switch off and Halloween was an uber success. First let me say that I have the coolest little girls. Not only were they down for getting new “dress up clothes” for a costume but I didn’t have to work that hard at all in convincing the switch. We were in the dress up section of our favorite red “bullseye” and they were so excited about the different options when they picked different princess outfits from the ones selected in the Disney store I said, “wait, so you would rather be this princess?” And Madz was all for it and when I asked “should I just take the others back?” (which little did they know how had already been done) Madz replied “you can take it back, Mommy we don’t need both.” LOVE THIS CHILD! And right there the switch was made. They had forgotten about those overpriced dresses in a snap. I also learned a very big frugal lesson that I wouldn’t have put together herein lies a Frugal Fowler Tip: the costumes were listed at between 20-60$ each and were pretty cheaply made! Whereas the “dress-up” clothes, in the toy section, were on sale for $15. Not only were they better quality but they cost less and the girls got to shop in the toy section, which never happens lol. All hale the happy fowler princesses who shop with success!

1379740_634540689815_1500217369_nThis year also marked the first time in our post college adulthood that Brent dressed up, I still have not done so, but he came home on Tuesday night and said they needed to dress in costume for their big closeout on Wed. Well, it was 9p the night before and don’t get me started at how ridiculously overpriced adult costumes are. So we took to pinterest and our closet to see what we could come up with. I am going to sell my husband out for being a slight party-pooper. We came across an awesome idea for him to dress as “mayhem” from the Allstate commercials. I told him if he did that I would bring the girls in, in costume, and I would dress as Flo from the Progressive insurance commercials. He had the suit, we have bandages, I have an all-white outfit and could make a printout that says “Progressive” to put on and a tube of red lipstick. I mean really how hard would it be? And it would be funny. At first he entertained the idea UNTIL he realized he would have to wear that suit all day long and put some “dirty” make-up on his face to show some roughage and bruising. Honestly, I think this is the part that got to him. Either he declined and sported his college basketball jersey dressing as a LSC basketball player circa sometime in 2005/2006. I’ll give him that he dressed up, which is one step better than me. However one of these years before our children are too old I’m going to be “that mom” and have a family costume. Can you say s’more? 😉

As for candy, I’d just like to say since when did sugar become such a commodity in the US that something that can cause you to lose sleep, gain weight and rot your teeth can sell for so much money?! Holy cannoli I was floored and almost opted to not buy any. But alas, I caved and went to a discount store and bought whatever was on sale last minute. This actually worked because they were pushing it out to make room for the array of holiday inventory (really, there’s more already?!) and it doesn’t have to be the good stuff at all because you’re just giving it away. All in all, I’m glad I did because when we got home the girls had a blast, seriously I think they had more fun, actually giving the candy out then they did collecting it. Food for thought for next year.

Happy Halloween!