July 28, 2009

A Tip to Stay Cool

I got this tip from the guy that installed our AC at the old house. It won't work for you if you don't have a basement.

It is much cooler inside our house than outside today even though the AC is not running. This morning before it got warm, I closed all the windows. I also closed all the blinds where the sun was directly shining in. Then I went to the thermostat and turned the fan to the on position but left the AC off. This circulates all the air in the house including the cooler air in the basement through the whole house.

This trick won't last all summer but it works when the days are hot and the nights are cool. As the sun moves over the house shut the blinds/shades as needed or if you won't be home just leave them all shut. The trick is to keep the heat/sun out as much as you can and bring that cool air in the basement up. This works well even in a two story house.

Even when you run the AC, if you have certain rooms of your house that warmer than others keeping that fan running will even out the temperature. It worked great for us in our old house and it seems to be working well in this house as well.

July 15, 2009


Last night my husband and I had our "Annual Budget Review". We sit down once a year, at the beginning of January, and set new budget limits for the year and review how we did the previous year. Sometimes we have some nice surprises and other times we are shocked at how much we went over budget (last year we were way over on dining out!). Strange as it may sound we actually look forward to our yearly review. It is also fun to look back at all our budgets from years past.

We use Quicken to keep track of all our accounts. We don't balance the checkbook on paper at all anymore. Since it is all on the computer we print off a "report". We can look up anything we need since it is all right on the computer. We try very hard to categorize where all our money goes. We did pretty good...this year we only had $9 in miscellaneous for all of 2007!

We used to be "average" savers. We would save up some but something would always come along to eat up the savings and if it got too high then we would spend thinking we had enough. Thankfully, we had minimal debt...a car payment, an occasional credit card we didn't pay off right away, and, of course, the mortgage.

But we had a major break through in our finances a few years ago. We sat down and added up all the non-monthly bills. You know the ones that come and you think "why didn't I save up for this....I knew it was coming". We took that total and divided it by 52 weeks and started putting that into our savings account by direct deposit (so we didn't have to think about it) when J got paid each week. We also figured out what we should have left each week after paying ALL the bills and added that to the direct deposit amount as well to kind of force of to save. We thought we'd see if we could live without that money but knew it was there just in case. It was kind of our habit to spend it if it was there.

Our non-monthly bills list is as follows (I'm sure everyone's would be a little different):

Water bill (ours come quarterly)
Medical bills (not covered by insurance)
Vet bill (annual exam and meds)
Dog grooming (quarterly)
Car insurance (twice a year)
Life insurance (quarterly)
Gifts (birthday, Christmas)
Safe Deposit Box (once a year)
Car registration (once a year)
Car repair (just in case)
Property taxes (once a year...we do not escrow ours and earn the interest in the mean time!!)
Tax preparation fees (once a year)
Subscriptions (newspaper)
Membership dues
IRA contributions
Home repair
Charity (not tithing that is weekly)
Church activities (kids, trips, etc)

Basically the only things we budget for on a monthly (sometimes
weekly) basis are:
Telephone/Cell phone
Gas for the vehicles
Household (paper goods, shampoo, etc)
Dining out (we really need to cut back on this one!)
Medical/Dental (comes out of paycheck weekly)

A little over one third of the paycheck goes right to savings, some to be spent later when we need it, and some to be saved. So now when those non-monthly bills come we transfer the money from savings to checking and pay them. No problem. Plus with the "forced" savings our account really started to grow! So much so that we looked into other places to keep it so it would earn more interest for us. We finally decided on a money market deposit account (MMDA) which has the great interest rates of a money market but is also insured like a regular savings account. Now we keep our savings there (we use Capital One's MMDA) and love to see the interest! Way better than our bank and no minimum balance either!

Using this method we no longer carry a balance EVER on a credit card. Our vehicles are paid for so no more car payments. Right now we are trying extra hard to save for a down payment on the new house. Once we have the new house we would like to work towards paying off the mortgage early. We have done all of the above over the last few years as our family has been growing (and most years we have had high medical bills as well since we have a high deductible plan and preemies!). We often wonder how much we could have saved by now if we had only started sooner!

I just thought I would share...this is what works for us. As far as saving money goes, I think the most important thing is do SOMETHING. It doesn't have to be this method or any other in particular...find what works for you and your family!

Until I write mine (ha!)...here are some financial books I found helpful if you are interested...check the library:
  • The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn
  • The Two-Income Trap and All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren
  • America's Cheapest Family by the Economides
  • The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
  • The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom by Suze Orman
  • Raising Kids with Just a Little Cash by Lisa Reid
  • Miserly Moms: Living on One Income in a Two Income Economy by Jonni McCoy
  • Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

July 10, 2009

Graduation Gift Idea: Just In Case

With my oldest graduating this year I knew we'd have several graduation parties to attend this summer. I decided to get a little creative and put together a little something myself to give as a gift. Our family is big on having extra supplies on hand. That goes for everything from ketchup to kleenex, spices to soap. It saves time and money have a little emergency backup and what better gift than to share that with someone! :)

So I bought a couple of plastic shoeboxes and filled them with all sorts of stuff a freshman, living away from home for the first time, might need in a pinch. Now these are not regular supplies, these items are for emergency backup, to help explain I wrote this little poem to stick in the box:

I'm sure your parents will supply you well,
But emergencies come, you never can tell,
This little kit will help you be prepared,
For you alone or it can be shared.

Just open this box and you'll find,
Helpful items of various kind.
Check here first for what you need or
Share the enclosed as a good deed.

You'll have most of this already, no doubt,
This box is "just in case" you run out,
Or some needed object should drop,
Or you've none left with no time to shop.

For it's good to have a backup in place,
It can keep a smile on your face,
To know you're ready for what comes your way,
Keep a little inconvenience from ruining your day.

So as you pack late this summer,
Don't forget (that'd be a bummer),
To take this here little box,
And put it in with your socks.

And when you use the items within,
Keep on your face a happy grin,
Not a frown, and
Remember (your name here).

If you would like to see what was included in each box, click the photo below to enlarge. You'll be amazed at what I fit in there! It was a tight squeeze but I managed to squeeze it all in.
My daughter gave her approval and said she hope the gifts are used appropriately. :) Me too!

July 1, 2009


I noticed something about our house the other day while I was putting away laundry. We have books or reading material in every single room of our house. We actually have book shelves in: our room, the baby's room, the kitchen, kid's room, and several on the landing upstairs. We have a big basket in the living room with kids books. We LOVE books. We are on our 4th copy of Goodnight Moon so sometimes we love our books to death.

Our TOP TEN favorite board books for children ages birth to two are:

* Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
* The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
* Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton
* Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton
* Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton
* Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino and Steven Kellogg
* Old, New, Red, Blue! (Cars book) by RH Disney
* The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss
* The Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani
* Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert

okay...make that eleven...

* Mirror Me (Baby Einstein) by Julie Aigner-Clark

One of my children had three of these (Mirror Me, Goodnight Moon, and Old, New...) memorized before he turned two!

Our TOP TEN most read (and requested) books for children ages two to five are:

* Snip Snap What's That? by Mara Bergman and Nick Maland
* Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman and Marla Frazee
* Corduroy by Don Freeman
* The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
* The Wolf Who Cried Boy by Bob Hartman and Tim Raglin
* Meet My Staff by Patricia Marx and Roz Chast
* Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett
* Birds (National Audubon Society First Field Guides) by Scott Weindensaul
* The Jolly Postman by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg
* the books I made--see below

The boys love the books I made for them. I got blank books and used Sharpie markers to draw simple pictures. I put things in there personalized just for them: address, phone number, colors, favorite things, even our menu. I got a chunky board book instead of paper to make one for H since he loved the big boys books so much. They love to read about themselves. I think age 3 is the best age for this. They don't care if you can't draw! I didn't put any people in the books since I can't draw people or faces. I did draw a pretty sorry looking Bob the Builder in one though. If you want to avoid drawing altogether you could use stickers or now you can even take photos and have it made into a book online at Shutterfly or Snapfish.

This last year we branched out to beginning readers. I should make a top ten list of those because some are pretty bad. If you want to get started writing that would be a good place to start! Fresh material is badly needed in that genre. We did make a few of our own but I don't think they'll be published any time soon.

What we do to encourage reading:

* Keep books in all areas of the house
* Keep books where kids can reach them
* Read something every day
* Read to the kids
* Read in front of the kids
* Read in a house, with a mouse...just kidding, just seeing if you were paying attention
* Let each kid have their own books
* Make your own books
* Expect some books to get chew or ripped (hopefully not the ones YOU made!)
* Go to the library
* Record yourself reading books and let the kids listen to the CD at naptime

Please leave a comment and tell me your favorite kids book or books.