A Morning That I Like

trophy“Mommy?” a little voice woke me from my sleep. I raised my head from the pillow and peered at the door. I managed to push a “Hmmmm?” from my lips. No one was there. The door was closed. I fell back to my pillow and listened a little longer just to make sure maybe someone wasn’t calling me from their room. Nothing. I must have dreamt it. And once again I found myself awake before my alarm clock had gone off.

I have a rule about not looking at the clock if I wake up in the middle of the night. It never works in my favor. But lately I’ve begun to notice that I can tell if it’s close to the time I usually wake up. I was pretty sure I was close. I debated getting up or going back to sleep. The alarm went off at 5:50. I hit snooze because even though I was mentally wide away, physically I was still stuck to my bed. I finally got up at 6:05, collected my clothes, went to the bathroom and took a shower. I got dressed and padded to the kitchen. I looked at the clock and set the time for 54 minutes from then– or 7:10 AM.

I made coffee. I packed lunches. My son’s alarm beeped at 6:30 AM and a few second later he padded over to the kitchen.

“Good Morning Eldest”

“Good Morning Mom”

“Time to get dressed.”

“I know, I’m getting my stuff from the PE bag.”

“I thought I told you to do that last night.”

“You did. I forgot.”

“Ah ok.”

I walked over to Daughter’s room.

“Time to get up!” Unintelligible noises rose from her as she kicked around. “No way, no tantrums young lady. Remember what happened the other day? We are not having a repeat of that are we?” More protests but much more subdued. “Where’s your PE clothes? I told you to get it ready last night.”

“You never gaaaaaaaave it to meeeeeeeeeee.”

“You didn’t aaaaaaaaaaaaaask me for it. I told you to get it ready, you’re the one who needs to get it and ask me for it if you can’t find it. Get up. Now.” I left her room and went to the PE bag and fished out her PE uniform. I took it back to her room. She was struggling to get out of bed, fighting with the blanket. I dropped the PE bundle on her bed. “Here you go. Don’t let it happen again. Get dressed, it’s time to go.”

I walked over to the boys’ room. “Come on Baby, it’s time to get up!” Some whining and I suddenly remembered it was Bike Safety Day and he wouldn’t have to wear his uniform. So I told him and fished out the requested blue shorts and red t-shirt from his drawers. “Here you go! Get dressed ok?”

I walked back to the kitchen and checked on Daughter who was dressed and fishing for socks in her drawer. Eldest had already started making his breakfast. Things were clicking. I love it when things click.

I fixed Baby and Daughter their oatmeal. I set Eldest to empty the dishwasher which he protested and I had to insist on. My mom popped in with some hardcore Sudafed for Stallion and me. I reminded the kids when the timer went off, they had five minutes to get into the car regardless of their state of hair, teeth, clothes, etc. I turned Daughter’s side ponytail into a side braid at her request. I sent everyone to brush their teeth. I went to brush my own teeth and put on my sneakers. When I came out, the kids were milling around the door.

“The timer went off,” Eldest informed me. “I turned it off.”

“Thanks. Next time, don’t turn it off though. I need to hear it. Alright, get your stuff and let’s get into the car.” I unlocked everything and let them loose while I went back in to say goodbye to Stallion, check on how he was feeling, and let him know about the medicine my mom had dropped off. We were on the road before 7:20. We beat both school zones on the way in because we were so early. We blasted music and sang and danced because I wasn’t stressed about traffic.

We got to school before the first bell rang at 7:40 AM. I unloaded the three bikes and the three helmets from the trunk that Stallion and I had loaded the night before. The kids rode them over to the track and parked them in the right spots. Daughter asked to get dropped off first because she wanted to be in class early. No problem. Eldest got dropped off next. Baby and I went to say hi to my Mom. One of the other moms stopped me and asked me about an event this Sunday we were going to. She was going to try and meet up with us. My kids love her kids and soon we’ll be related as her cousin is marrying my brother at some point. I got Baby into his seat in class and chatted with the other kids at his table. Gave him lots of hugs and kisses. Dropped off the payment to the Coach to cover the check that had bounced when my account got hacked. Got in the car and was pulling out before the second bell rang at 7:50 AM. I was at the train station and got on the 8 o’clock train and was at my desk before 8:30.

I felt like a champion. The week has been like that pretty much consistently although today was the first time I got to my desk early. Usually Baby holds me back until the last bell rings. He doesn’t like letting me go. But today, I told him I needed to see Coach before the bell rang and he was fine. Everything was fine. I love mornings like this. I feel happy and start my day on the right note. And I’m hoping it’s a sign that this weekend will be smooth as well as it’s getting pretty packed with stuff. As long as I keep things organized, we’ll be ok. Amazing isn’t it?

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A Functioning Mutant is a Delegating Mutant

Image

I have vented a lot on here about my lack of organization, the stress with the house, and so on and so forth. A lot of you have chimed in with amazing ideas and suggestions and encouragement (as usual, because I have the best readers on the internets EVA).

So, I have been tweaking things around here. Little things. And some of it, is actually working. Stuff like…

Child Labor

I force myself to delegate more and more household chores– especially to Eldest who is beyond old enough to start carrying around a bigger load of responsibility. But also to Daughter and Baby. What have I had the kids do? Well on top of the usual things they already do I have had Eldest empty out the dishwasher with the assistance of Baby and/or Daughter. I’ve also had him load it if anything happened to be in the sink while the dishwasher was full of clean dishes. Daughter is now fully responsible for feeding the cat. I made two changes to make sure she could do this easily. 1) I put a plastic cup in the giant bag of cat food so she could just scoop out the food instead of carry and pour it out. 2) I switched the wet food to this stuff by Meow Mix called Pate Toppers. Why? Because the containers are plastic with foil lids that peel right off. Much easier to do, and safer, than the metal cans. Also, the plastic is recyclable. I have them help me fold laundry, especially socks which I hate doing. I aim to clean while they are present and then delegate appropriate tasks. Wiping down surfaces with a Clorox wipe for instance. Cleaning the place mats. Running the vacuum cleaner. Emptying the bathroom trash cans. I have also employed them more often in meal prep– especially breakfast and occasionally lunch and seldomly in dinner or dessert. Eldest is especially good at this one but Daughter is as well. Baby is good at setting the kids table settings and getting cups of water for everyone.

Google Calendar

Where have you been all my life? I have toyed with Google Calendar before but recently I have made it a point to really abuse it and have gone so far as to set it up properly with settings I prefer (Pop Up Reminders FTW) and even shared it with Stallion and set Stallion up with one so I could better track his work schedule which always changes and is a nightmare to keep track of mentally. I still keep a paper calendar in my purse because entering things in my phone is a pain in the booty-bum and my Nexus 7 has a knack for not being in my purse, not having a charged battery, and/or not being in a wireless hotspot when I need to enter a reminder. I also like that I can email events to people as I’m entering them. So, for instance when I updated my calendar to show Eldest’s upcoming Track and Field meet, I also had it dash a quick email to MutantWino, MutantPirate, and MutantDad since they have all shown interest in attending his meets and have even made it to one already.

Prep

I have been working really hard on getting things taken care of ahead of time. I prep lunches the night before, except mine and I don’t know why I do that. I make sure the uniforms are prepped. I put everything that needs to go out the door with us the next day clustered together on the dining table (one day when I’m financially stable, I will be doing some work on my entry so that it is an awesome Home Base area thing). And when I add reminders to my Google calendars, I try and set the time for evening hours– earlier if it’s something the kids need to do and later if it’s something I need to do. I am also prepping food-wise as much as possible. I haven’t really done another formal meal plan but I want to. And I do try and at least somewhat think about what I have food-wise and what to make with it when. On Sunday, I hard-boiled ten eggs and put them in a tray in the fridge so we’d have access to them all week. It’s been a great extra to throw into lunch boxes and my kids LOVE them. It’s easy to do and so this is something I will do more regularly. I have also started purchasing more snack food. I know it’s more expensive to buy the little bags of cookies individually packaged but I am just not going to package them myself. I’ve learned this the hard way.

Grilling

About a month or so ago, my family had another Grand Round of Shuffling Objects. My aunt and uncle were downsizing, Mutant Pirate bought his first home, and Mutant Wino is settling down with a fiancee into a house they will be purchasing from her mother soon so he is expanding. Anyways, things were shuffled around and I ended up with my parents gas grill. I have never grilled anything on a BBQ in my life and now I’m wondering what the hell took me so long (besides cash flow to actually purchase one of course). Almost every single thing I have put on that grill has turned out heavenly (except for the one time I wanted to char the Tandoori chicken I had cooked in the crock pot and then forgot about- doh!) and there are no pats and pans to clean and there is no cooked food smell in the house and I don’t even lose my appetite after cooking! It’s the best thing ever!!! I have made burgers, steaks, fish, even pasta on the thing. It’s fast and it’s easy and it gives me a reason to be outside of the house where I can’t hear the screaming of the children.

Stopped Caring

About the money that is. Sort of. I have been driving myself absolutely crazy trying to keep everything afloat financially. Counting pennies to make sure I have enough to pay this, that, and the other. Hounding Child Support Enforcement. And so on and so forth and then I just STOPPED. I gave up. On everything. I gave up on paying off my debts. I gave up on tracking my spending. I gave up on the idea of ever seeing child support again. I even gave up on the idea of paying every single bill on time. Yup. Just. Stopped. Caring. I recognize this is not a healthy way to live. I know that I cannot and will not sustain this for a long period of time. And I also know the way I was living before was just as unhealthy and just as unsustainable and finally everything cracked and fell apart. Credit cards are loaded up again. I’ve had some late bills I completely forgot about or flat out didn’t have money for. I had a bounced check. I even had one of my accounts cleaned out by credit card fraud. Someone got access to a nasty adult website at the cost of $90 of my precious money. I just felt like the more I kept fighting the money thing, the more ferocious it got. It was like a hydra. Cut off one head and eight more grow back in its place. So I stopped cutting and settled for lamely poking and some lazy dodging. Funny enough, a random child support check for $100 showed up (two days before my $90 was stolen so there you go). Does it mean things will be turning around soon? Maybe, maybe not. Do I care? Not yet, no.

I believe that each of us has limits and that includes limits on the number of things we can consciously dedicated time and energy to. Because life shifts constantly, these things need constant re-evaluation and re-prioritization. Right now, my focus is on 1) Organization, 2) School, and 3) Relationship Strengthening (romantic, family, kids, friends, and with myself). And that is all I can handle in a serious, dedicated, and consistent manner. It’s not that everything else gets thrown to the curb, it’s just that everything else gets handled as well as it can with whatever energy and other resources I may have left after dealing with 1, 2, and 3. As one of those becomes easier to handle and needs less and less of my attention, other priorities can ease up and absorb me some more. But right now, these are three biggies and they win, period end of story.

So, that’s where I am. And that’s where I am going. Thanks again for your suggestions. I have been trying them out here and there and it’s been nice knowing I have such a great team of cheerleading readers. But I’m curious– what do you think of limits as far as priorities go? Do you shift things around constantly or do you stay focused on pretty much the same things all the time? If so, do you find you need to shake things up now and then? Do you know what your limits are? What are you focusing on big time right now?

Therapy Writing: Shifting Needs to Wants

Overwhelmed mom

I have a problem that I’m trying to work out. One my favorite ways to cope with a problem is to write it out. Not only does it let me think things through in a linear fashion, it also allows me to seek out information, and in the case of the blog it allows for input. This is one of those posts.

I think we can all agree it is incredibly easy to do things we want to do. If it’s challenging, we just really dig in and go for it.

We also know that if we are really struggling to achieve something we say we want, it more often than not turns out it isn’t something we really DO want, but more something we feel we SHOULD want for whatever reasons.

But what happens when you need to do something and you don’t want to? Oh we know things on small scales– all those unpleasant tasks we have to do. But if you need to make a long-term change and don’t want to? How do you go ahead and move it from the Need Column to the most powerful column of all– Need AND Want?

“Ok Mutant, what is going on?”

Right. So, I’ve written about the problems I have as Household Manager before. As the Family Manager in my family I am responsible for:

  • Four schedules (three children and mine)
  • One job/career
  • Three meals for five people
  • Cleanliness and maintenance of an automobile
  • Cleanliness and maintenance of a house: Entry Foyer, living/dining room, converted garage playroom, kitchen, two storage closets, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, one backyard
  • 14 Bills (that I can recall right now) and General Finances
  • Four educations and available for assistance with a fifth
  • A cat
  • A tank of fish
  • A gekco
  • Clothe four people via laundry and clothing purchases as well as regular purges of outgrown and worn-out clothing and shoes
  • Entertainment for five people
  • Maintain the health and well-being four people via scheduled appointments and routine medications
  • Nursing duties for four people during illness (not counting myself)
  • Representative of the immediate family to the extended family
  • And miscellaneous duties I can’t think of right now because — dead

I find this to be so overwhelming, I feel like it’s borderline impossible. As it is, I’m failing in most of, if not all of these duties. And it IS having detrimental effects. My kids were late to school yesterday and usually we cut it so close, Eldest has mentioned how uncomfortable it makes him. I forget important dates. I have very little idea of what exactly is going on in my kids’ classrooms. My finances are- well, they are unspeakable. I forget to schedule routine appointments. I forget to turn in important forms and papers. I am absolutely frantic in the kitchen and find it such a loathsome place to be. Things go missing. I am always stressed out running around trying to find this, that, or the other because I have no idea where I left it and I forgot to make sure I had it ready ahead of time and need it RIGHT NOW. Frustration runs high among all members of the family constantly. I don’t feel peaceful in my home. I feel overwhelmed when I go out. It’s just not a good state of being.

It needs to change. If it was just me, as it was for so very long, it wouldn’t need to change I don’t think. I don’t like lots of order. I don’t like lots of routines. I like to eat when I want, what I want. I like to do and don’t do as I please. Not washing clothes in a week presents me with an ADVENTURE in fashion!

But it isn’t just me. And so I have a need that conflicts with a want. And no matter how much brainwashing I have tried, it hasn’t worked.

I tell myself, “I want this because I want my kids to feel peace and order and stability and reliability.” But then again, I find those things so boring and what if my kids find ME so boring?

I tell myself, “I want this because I want to spend less time stressed and frantic and more time doing things I enjoy doing.” But I’ve always been sort of frantic and maybe I don’t really want to change that after all.

I tell myself, “I want this because when I have had things organized and structured, they have been less stressful and far more enjoyable.” But… maybe I don’t think I deserve to be less stressed or to enjoy things.

And so it is that I stare at this Need that I don’t Want. And it’s not something I Need to do once and get it over with. My favorite way of dealing with unpleasantness you know. This is something I need to do and need to keep doing for a very, very, very long time.

The way I see myself doesn’t jibe, in my head, with the changes I need to make. I don’t like the words schedule, budget, plan, list, calendar, organize, routine, or structure.

I feel like I’m coming across as a really immature kid right now.

Maybe I am.

Regardless, the fact remains I need to change my day to day habits. I need to create helpful routines and habits in my family management style. I need to implement some type of structure. And I just don’t want to.

This whole thing is like the Dentist. I hate the dentist. I hate, hate, hate going to the damn dentist. It hurts, it makes horrible sounds, it tastes terrible, and I always get at least one scolding. And I have to go. And I have gone but maintaining a healthy smile regiment? Nope.

And so the same thing with my Family Management duties. I try and implement some new thing and I keep it up, sometimes for a few months even, and it makes me really happy and starts taking away stress and everything and then…

Fín.

And we’re back to the same old, same old.

Is it a lack of willpower? Is it immaturity? Is it selfishness? Is it a lack of energy? Is it a lack of knowledge? Is it that I’m looking at things wrong? I have no idea. And I have no idea how to fix it. Not even a little bit. Not without failing– again.

What are your thoughts? Have you made a life-long change you need to make but didn’t want to? How did you DO that?

Post-Thanksgiving Pre-Christmas Nesting

Home is where the Heart is
Home is where the heart is” by Linda Yvonne on Flickr

It’s a weird time of year for me. Exhausting and exciting. Tiring and titillating. Wearisome and whimsical.

Lately, the condition of my home has really been rubbing me wrong. Every room in the house has a mess in it of varying size and degree. Some parts of the house don’t smell great. Walking through the house is somewhat of an adventure as you’re likely to either run into or step on something if not do both.

Cleaning out for the garage sale was a big help but it wasn’t the complete answer. So I’ve kept at it.

Sometimes, it’s been a very frustrating thing for me. When you have children especially, housekeeping is truly a Sisyphean task. And there have been moments where this sort of realization has smashed into me and left me frustrated and even depressed.

It’s something like I’m moving the fifth load of laundry into the dryer and am suddenly horribly coldly aware I’ve done this four times in one weekend already and I will likely do it again in another day or two. Horrible. Why. Am. I. Doing. This.

And yet there are moments of redemption too. Brief ones. But you have to clutch to those because the other ones will drive you mad.

Moments like this past weekend where I was busting my ass to get my kitchen beautiful again. I mean, I went to bed at 3 in the morning on Sunday, from cleaning the house ok? It’s still not done, not even close, but that’s not the point of the story.

The point is I was working on the kitchen and I was taking things down from the window sill to wipe it down and at first I thought, Why am I even bothering with the window sill? No one cares about the window sill. And then I suddenly sort of changed moods and switched gears. Suddenly I was doing something to give my loved ones a nice home, one similar to what I had growing up.

And that felt good. And that felt like a good motivator. And I rode it till 3 in the morning. And I’m still riding it because I know it’ll (most likely) eventually evaporate.

But I think to counter the eventual feel good vibe evaporation (quite the scientific term, believe you me) I need to ride it long enough to devise a system. Or maybe not even devise but re-implement.

Like (practically) every good female on the internet, I have been seduced by the FLYlady. I’ve toyed with her process and have had varying degrees of success. Mostly I have two big problems with it– it’s not compatible for a single full time working mother of three children and I really just can’t ever finally love housework. I know she says it’s about finally loving yourself but I beg to differ. I just won’t go into it all right now.

The thing is, whether I like her or not, whether I have the time and patience to put her system into effect completely at my house or not, there is one basic part of FLYlady’s system that works– routine maintenance.

My mom is a domestic diva. She is of the old school lineage that truly takes pride in a home’s appearance. I remember the house always being clean, or at least smelling that way. To this day, when my mom brings something she’s laundered at her house, it always smells a million times better than my laundry and it lasts way longer too. My mom has told me, in a million ways, that essentially FLYlady is right. Cleaning your house is something that has to be done every single day. Like brushing your teeth.

You know how you wouldn’t leave your house in the morning without brushing your teeth? My mom believes you shouldn’t go to bed at night without cleaning something in your house, preferably a lot of somethings.

Even though it’s still hard for me to admit it, Mom’s right. And that’s where the program comes into place. I actually had a house I was proud of a while ago. Which is funny because it was also the time I had a body I was proud of and lots of people out there would say it’s not a coincidence.

And the crazy part is this actually happened during a time in my life where I was a single mom.

I’m unhappy with my home and my body these days. They both feel dumpy and frumpy and neglected. But this post isn’t about my body, it’s about the house. So I’m going to start making up my lists of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. And I’m just going to keep riding the wave into a more standard program of routine maintenance. It worked so well for me once before, I know it can work again. And the kids are older and can join in more ways than they were able  to two years ago.

So that’s where my mind’s been these days. With my home and putting some heart into it. What about you?

By the way, random question but when should I open up Tinsel my Christmas Pig?

27.5 reasons I coupon

10/366:  Sunday Coupons
“Sunday Coupons” by TeamJTX on Flickr

Yesterday, while my kids were at my parents’ house enjoying the pool, I took advantage and went to the grocery store. Of course, I took coupons.

I know coupons and those who use them are pretty trendy these days. And there’s a whole television show mostly dedicated to those who abuse these little papers in ways most of us just can’t understand (75 deodorants and you already have 125 at home?).

But I have to tell you, I love my coupons. And I’ve loved them a very long time. After a trip like yesterday, I really can’t understand why using coupons isn’t a universal practice. Coupons are money.

I think I use my coupons in a pretty normal way and yesterday’s trip is my type of awesome shopping trip– the variety is wide and the savings substantial. I bought:

10 Lunchables, 1 Bag of Celery, 2 Ben & Jerry Ice Creams, 1 Can of Baking Powder, 2.5 pounds of Grapes, 2 bags of New England Coffee, 1 Bunch of Organic Rosemary, 1 Pint of Grape Tomatoes, 1 Onion, 1 Bag of Red Potatoes, 1 Pack of Bacon, 2.25 Pounds of Bananas, 2 Cans of Tomato Sauce, 2 Boxes of Baking Soda, 1.35 Pounds of Plums, 3 Lemons, 2 Bottles of Ocean Spray Juice Blends, 1 Box of Honey Nut Cheerios, 1 Box of Lucky Charms, 1 Box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, 2 Boxes of Fiber One Chewy Bars, 2 Sure Deodorants, 1 Degree Deodorant (for Friend), 1 Dozen Organic Eggs, 2 4-packs of Mandarin Orange fruit cups packed in water, 2 Packs of Yoplait Granola Parfaits, 2 Almond Breeze Milks, 2 Packs of Yoplait Fiber One Yogurts, 1 Bottle of Fabuloso cleaner, and 2 Bottles of Palmolive.

I spent $88.27. I saved $77.13 or 47%. What you need to know is $27.50 of my savings were in clipped coupons. I don’t know about you, but $27.50 towards feeding my family and keeping my home clean(ish) is a good deal. None of the items I bought were things I bought solely because I had coupons. I needed and/or wanted everything here.

I know a bunch of you are probably cringing at some of the food I have listed here but you should know this isn’t because I coupon, it’s just the way I shop. I am not a health nut. I also absolutely hate being in the kitchen which reflects in my tendencies to shop for convenience foods. I hate shopping the perimeter of the supermarket. I do what I can where I can and don’t beat myself up for the rest.

The Lunchables, for instance, are the perfect example of this. I had no coupons for those. But my kids like them, the Deli had a huge line, and the ham they eat wasn’t on sale this week. I would’ve easily spent $10 on one pound of the ham alone. So, I said “Screw it” and bought the ten Lunchables at $1 each.

As for time and effort, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t count the amount of time I’m actually in the grocery store because I’m spending that time there whether I have coupons or not. I don’t always have the time to go to the grocery store once a week or more, although I wish I did because I’d save more money. I definitely don’t have the time to go to more than one supermarket a week. I also tend to be faster in a store when I coupon because I have an awesome list and ONLY stick to the list.

It’s hard for me to gauge the amount of time I actually spend a week clipping coupons because right now I’m in the process of transitioning into a binder. This is taking me forever because I have almost a year’s worth of coupon inserts saved and many are doubled thanks to my awesome Mom. In the past week or so, I’ve easily clipped over 400 coupons and I have more to go. I’ll probably time myself when I do yesterday’s bountiful bunch but I have a hunch it’s about one hour and I do it when it’s nice and quiet and the children are sleeping. That much time is for one of those weeks that has a ton of inserts like yesterday’s paper did. Not all weeks have so many coupons.

If you’d like to maybe try using coupons effectively, here are my suggestions.

  • Before you subscribe to a newspaper or go buy them, ask your neighbors/friends/co-workers/family you’re comfortable with and see often (once a week) if they get the Sunday paper and if they do, if they use the coupons. If they don’t, ask if they wouldn’t mind giving them to you. Free coupons are the best coupons. If  no one convenient has them, buy the paper or subscribe.
  • OK, save yourself the trouble and get a binder (they’re on sale right now with back to school clearances and stuff) and get some trading card holders. I didn’t use this system but now that I do I feel like a moron for not using it before. Don’t risk feeling like a moron. To give you a perspective on how many trading card holders you’ll need, I’m currently using about 45 pages one-sided. But, again, I’m using several months’ worth of inserts. You can probably do perfectly well with 10 to 20 pages. Sharon just set hers up and it took her only 45 minutes from start to finish (including clipping the actual coupons).
  • Every time you get a bunch of coupon inserts, take the time to go through them and clip the coupons for things you use regularly or would like to try. If you really don’t care about the brand, then make sure you clip all of the different coupons for the same type of thing so you have more opportunities to match coupons to a sale. If you’re brand loyal, the amount of time spent clipping will be cut but so will the amount of savings. It’s still worth doing! Clip them, sort them, and put them in their handy organizers.
  • Every time you have to go shopping, make a list of everything you need. Then, check the insert to see what, if any of it, is on sale, And finally, check your coupon binder to see what you have coupons for. You can do a happy dance if you have coupons for items that are also on sale because that’s where the magic happens.
  • When I head into the store, I have a very nice list organized by section and I have all of my coupons pulled and ready in a little coupon carrier I have. I actually only use two pockets in it– the one in front is for the coupons I’m turning over at the cashier and the other one is for the coupons I ended up not using for one reason or another. I have not yet taken my binder with me because I feel this would lead me to spend more time in the store and possibly to impulse buys.
  • At the register, I put all of the items that don’t have a coupon at the front, and the ones that do at the back. When it’s my turn, I explain to the cashier “All items behind such and such have coupons. Should I give them to you all at the end or would you like me to pair them up with the items?” Nine times out of ten their eyes light up with my suggestion and ask if I could please match them that would be awesome. So, I go and start matching. Now do you see why I put all of the non-coupon items up front? Buys me some time!

If you really want to get into the groove of coupons, you can use a website like SouthernSavers. It tracks all of the sales and matches coupons for you. It also highlights which items are REALLY cheap and so you might want to try and stock up on those a bit more than usual if it happens to be something you use often.

The reason you stock up when it’s on sale really low is because you don’t want to pay full-price for the item when you run out. Yes, you’ll be paying full-price for some items when you start using coupons but eventually, the number of items you pay full price for get smaller and smaller. On my list, only five items were full-price items. Everything else was either on sale, had at least one coupon, or was on sale and had at least one coupon.

I believe using coupons is like anything else. If you go into it with a bad attitude, you’re not going to get much out of it. But, if you’re willing to learn something and take the time to keep at it, I think you’ll be very pleased with the results.

Recently, GRS did an Ask the Readers post with the question: How much do you spend on food? The couple asking was spending $750 a month– for just two adults. JD’s answer wasn’t far off either. I was shocked.

On average, I spend $615 a month on food– and that includes dining out and other convenience eating I do. My average bill at a grocery store is only $255 a month and that includes all the cleaning products and things like that. Did I mention I have three kids?

So there you go; yesterday it was a savings of $27.50 but over a year, it’s much more. And it’s just too much for me to simply dismiss it as not for me without giving it a real solid try. If you’re pressed for money, I suggest you do too. It’s essentially extra income that’s not taxable!

Dancing in September

Note: As you may have gathered from the title, this post has a soundtrack. So if you want to dance a little, play the video and read to the groove.

I’ve had the notes for this post (hand) written for days now but circumstances at work and in life have been so frenzied, I haven’t had a moment to flesh it all out. And because I don’t have much time these days, I’m doing this as quickly and efficiently as possible. So without further hesitation, here’s a super quick rundown of how I did with August goals.

August- Financial

Eldest’s birthday party < $350= Check!

403b= My contributions are coming in but I haven’t seen anything from the employer post just yet so I am going to have to follow-up next month. Check?!

8 No Spend Days = Try 9! Check + 1!

Income Deduction Order= Check! Direct Deposit form submitted too!

Savings with extra money = $575! AND I paid off one of my credit cards! Check!

August- Personal

30 minute workouts on kid-free days= Fail 😦

Getting ready ahead of time= Mixed Results. Some days yes, some days no. The days I do are SO nice though.

Family Meeting = Check!

Girlfriend outing= Fail 😦

Books= I read five books this month and shelved Loving What Is (not because it’s bad but because I’ll explain later) so Check!

Blog= Well I’m gonna go with aCheck!on this one. There was the whole nomination thing AND I even vanquished She-Ra! August 2011 had 23% more page views than that insane Facebook-fueled She-Ra swarmed December 2010.  

So, I’m pretty happy with how August turned out. No real fails on the Financial side and only two fails on the Personal side that, I think, are far outweighed by the successes.

I am so happy with how this whole goal thing worked out for me last month, I’ve decided I’m doing it again this September. So, here’s what I’m looking at this month!

Financial

Retirement: Follow-up on the employer contributions to the 403b. Did I misunderstand the letter and it starts next month? Do the employer contributions take more time than mine to post?

Savings Accounts (Emergencies, Registration Fees, and Christmas): Depending on whether or not the child support’s direct deposit goes into effect this month, I may get either two checks or possibly even three. If it’s two checks, I’d like to put in another $675 into the various savings accounts. If it’s three checks, I’d like to put in a total of $1,250.

Bigger than usual transactions: I have two transactions this month that are bigger than usual for me– $80 for my vehicle registration and $175 for the laptop. I need to budget for these.

Credit Cards: I have three credit cards left and one of them is small enough that I’m tempted to try and pay it off. My Target card is sitting at a balance of $123.77. Doesn’t that scream “Pay me off!” to you? It does to me!

Change Coupon System: I can’t believe I’m doing this but I don’t think the system I had with coupons is working as well as it could be. I keep the inserts intact filed by company, in date order. I make my lists off what’s on sale and that’s it. The problem is, finding coupons for things I want or need that are not on sale is practically impossible. And remembering to use coupons I have that I didn’t necessarily get in the normally tracked systems is pretty impossible. I forgot to redeem a coupon for a free box of Glad trash bags this way! So I’m going to the binder method—clip what I’m interested in, store it by category in baseball card holders with the most recent coupon in front, shop off the sales lists and use coupons for the other things.

Personal

Books: The book smashing will continue and I am not going to request anymore library books because the Parasol Protectorate books my cousin gave me for my birthday last month are seducing me.

Crochet: I started my Mom’s blanket last month and am going to keep at it, maybe even finish it this month. Not to mention, I really want to crochet a unicorn that is part of a CAL (crochet-along) for September on Ravelry.

Girl Time/Working Out: Ok since my workout plan AND my girl time plan were epic fails last month, I’ve decided to combine the two. To that end, I bought a Groupon for five classes at a local pole dancing studio and my friend is splitting her Groupon with me for 3 classes each at a Circus school. I won’t use all of them this month but I’m going to try to take advantage of at least one, maybe two.

Box Tops: My kids’ school is collecting box tops. I’ve never done this before so I have to make the switch to this mentality and collect them.

Anti-Hermit: I need to get out of the house more. I think being cooped up is bad for me and I’m the one that keeps talking myself out of it. No more hermit behavior!

Culture: I’m going to see a play this month. So sue me. I love plays and musicals and dances and anything that is done on a giant stage with lots of lights and many many many people watching (out of the gutter people!) so a play will be attended by me because I believe doing things you love contribute to your overall sense of well-being and I’m running way too low on that lately.

Work: I need to take a stronger leadership role and pull together a more team-concentrated environment. We’re pulling each other apart, getting in each other’s ways, and dropping things between cracks. Our bosses were pretty emphatic with me about not taking over everything because of how attached my co-workers are to certain aspects of my job but this has really bitten me in the behind and my co-workers are displaying way more desire to relinquish responsibilities than hold onto them as dearly as our bosses may have imagined. And of course, since I’m the new one I’m the one most at risk for losing my job over any failures. I refuse to let that happen. I love my job and I really like the people I work with, I just don’t like the way we’re (not) working together or the way I look like an incapable idiot. No más!

So there’s my September laid out for you. What about your September? Are you going to take it easy this month, plan everything down to the nitty-gritty, or a little bit of both? Is there ONE thing you absolutely MUST accomplish this month? I’ll be your cheerleader!

Kid Cheerleader

This was a rare gem in the sordid world of cheerleader pictures

Photo by Opus Pro on Flickr

Heading into August’s final stretch

I will defeat you She-Ra!

Well, it’s the last week of August and the last week to work on the goals I set up when the month started. I figure I’ll refresh us with some of these, update you on where I’m at, and lay out my plan for the last week.

Financial

As I’d mentioned in a previous post, the bulk of Eldest’s birthday party expenses were associated with a reptile show that was a no-show. This left me with $250 which ended up being absolutely necessary to carry me over the gap between when I would’ve normally gotten child support and when I actually did get child support. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

I’d challenged myself to hit 8 No Spend Days this month. Well, I’ve got 7 so far! I am pretty happy about this I have to say. I look forward to challenging myself again next month with a couple more days perhaps. It really helps to plan ahead, let me tell you. It also helps to just stay home and relax. Amazing how affordable that is!

I really do like the two account system although, I do confess things got a bit tight and I had to switch to the bill account until the child support dust settled, but that lasted only a few days and I’m back to the initial set-up: Credit Union for spending and ING for bills.

As regular readers know, the Income Deduction Order is working. The first amount was cut from his paycheck Friday, August 12 and I deposited the check yesterday. There was a gap in income then from when he normally would’ve paid me something (that same Friday) to yesterday. But, the gap was worth it because I know I got more this way than had he been able to choose the amount given to me. I need to set up for direct deposit. I have the form all filled out in an envelope, stamped, and ready for the mailbox on the way out. I doubt it’ll go into effect before they cut the next check but hey, I’m working on it!

Since I did get some money from the deduction, I’ve arranged for $575 to go into the different savings accounts and I’ve set aside $59 to pay off one of my low-balance credit cards next week when the funds transfer. YAY!

Personal

It looks like working out is going to be a September thing. My friend bought a Groupon for six classes at a circus arts school. They’re letting her split it so she and I can go together. She’s eyeballing something called high-flying yoga. Not to be outdone, I found a Groupon for pole dancing classes at a studio by my house. She went and bought that one too. It was only $29 and they have all kinds of hilarious classes—even some that have nothing to do with a pole or disrobing or laps. The best part of both of these options is they have very flexible schedules. The pole fitness studio is even open until 9:30 on weeknights!

As I predicted, with school starting for the kids this past Monday prepping the night before has become a must-do. And it’s paid off. I don’t know why I know this consciously and yet struggle to do it. I know this is common after all it’s why people smoke cigarettes or eat a box of Swiss Cake Rolls in one sitting (god I love those).

Following the success of our first family meeting, I’m going to schedule another one the first Monday of September which is Labor Day. I think it’ll be good to check in with the kids and how their new school routines are working. We’ll also most likely have to discuss extracurricular activities. This is something my mother and brother have traditionally helped with financially. I never asked, they just really wanted to do it for my kids. But this year, I’d like to contribute financially to this. Eldest has already expressed a desire to try out for the Primary basketball team and Daughter has told me she really wants to do ballet again this year.

So the girlfriend outing didn’t happen this month and it’s not likely. But I guess I’ll be compensating with the pole dancing and trapeze-flying in the next few weeks.

As far as books, most of you voted for Bossypants as my next read and it will be—after Posionwood Bible because that’s due at the library first and I can’t renew it. I’ve been reading it on the train every day and already love it.

As you know, things have gotten pretty exciting at this blog this month what with all of the mentions everywhere and most recently the nomination at my local news site (which is hilarious considering I’d said I wouldn’t ask for votes and I promise you, I’m really trying not to). As a matter of fact, I may even break a previous record for traffic to this blog in one month. The funny thing is that particular month was a freak month for me and was completely due to the Facebook child abuse campaign that asked everyone to change their profile picture to their favorite childhood cartoon character. People came flocking to this blog for She-Ra pictures. They still do! It was by far my highest spike in traffic and this month, I might match it or beat it without a freak Facebook campaign skewing the results.

I should mention I’ve begun crocheting the Alaskan Nights afghan for my mother. I promised this her blanket last Christmas. It’s so beautiful but I’ve already worked myself into a mess. I only copied part of the pattern apparently and returned the book. And I am getting confused without a photo to guide me. So far, I like what I see but I’m in a weird part of it right now and not really sure if I’m doing it right or what.

I have to say, I am really liking the fact I’ve been on top of the goals I set out for myself this month. I worry that maybe I’m boring you guys but you have to know, this has been tremendously helpful to me in staying on track and staying focused. Not to mention, I actually get to prove to myself that I’m accomplishing things and not just meandering mindlessly day to day.

What about you? Are you looking at closing August smoothly or are you kind of freaking out a bit? Do you create and track goals or do you just fly by the seat of your pants?