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Windfall

June 18th, 2018 at 02:11 pm

MIL gave us $5000 yesterday. I have a lot of mixed feelings about what to do with this money. The strongest emotion says to stick this right into the Emergency Fund. That would bring it to nearly two months of expenses. It has been very hard having it down so low. And we still don't know what the future holds job wise. His job with this company keeps getting extensions, but we are living 3 months at a time, it seems.

Another part of me feels like we should throw it at debt, we are supposed to be throwing everything there, but DH and I both feel weird about taking money from his mother to throw at the loan to my mother. Yet at the same time, we both want that debt gone. It has been hanging over us too long and prevents us from saving for our future. I also don't know how my mother would feel about taking that money if she found out where it came from, which I have no intention of telling her, but she's nosy and has a way of finding stuff out. We are not telling the kids about this money. So if we do decide to pay it to her we might stretch it out over a few months so it doesn't come in a big lump.

Another thing we could do is open a Roth IRA. Probably a spousal IRA since I have nothing saved for retirement at all and I'd feel better if some was in my name, too. If we were out of debt, that is likely what we would do with the majority of the money she is giving us, open a Roth for both of us. But we aren't. I know once we are out of debt we can really contribute, so it comes back to that. It always comes back to paying off the loan.

There are a few things we could really use the money for, like I need new glasses, and we need new rabbit cages, and DH would like a new laptop or at least to have the money available to get one when his laptop gives up the ghost, which it has been threatening to do for the last year or so. It would also be nice to get DS into a driver's class so he can actually learn how to drive. DH hasn't had the time to teach him and my brain hasn't been in the right place to do it, either.

But I know we can get by with the old cages and that we have started a fund for the laptop. We need to find the time to teach DS to drive even if DH has to do it on the weekends. The glasses I can probably afford to buy outright in another month out of our medical fund, but my eyes are really, really bugging me and my prescription has changed a lot so the temptation there is strong.

So maybe we put $4000 into the EF and I get my glasses, and the rest of that $1000 we put into the laptop fund. Then when we know for sure what the situation is long term with DH's job, maybe we can take the remainder to throw at debt.

I do know that MIL plans to give us another $7000 this year. She's given us $6000 so far. I am not sure when that will happen, though. At that point we will have to figure out what to do with that money all over again.

Maybe with the momentum we make on debt in these next several weeks with all the overtime, it'll hyper focus us on getting the loan gone, or maybe it'll make it easier to keep it in the Emergency Fund.

I really don't know how people manage to stay gazelle intense on debt payoff if they are worried about future employment. We've got to figure it out though, if we ever want to be done with this and save up for a house and contribute to retirement. Right now buying a house again seems so far out of reach.

I'm not sure what we are going to do. I think for now just let it sit in savings until we are more sure of what we should do and have had a chance to discuss it more.

What would you do, not knowing if you had a job past the end of August, but things seemed somewhat promising? Wait until September? That probably makes the most sense.

Amazon Issues and Question

June 17th, 2018 at 03:54 pm

Well, Amazon may have the option of paying directly out of your checking account in theory, but in practice not so much. I ended up having to use the credit card after all. I will pay it off the minute the charge hits the account.

This irritates me immensely. I am going to go in on Monday and ask for a debit card for that checking account. I should be able to use that for any future Amazon purchases and it ought to work like a credit card. At least I hope it will. Has anyone been able to use their debit card on Amazon?

Meal Planning for the Week

June 15th, 2018 at 09:49 pm

We have a variety of fruit right now, strawberries, cherries, oranges, apples, and bananas, so I'm not assigning fruits to any one night. Everyone will take a serving of fruit of their choice with each dinner. The Chicken Alfredo was a new recipe and made in the Instant Pot. We actually had that for dinner tonight, since today is day one. It was a hit. I'm glad because it was super simple.

Day One:
Chicken Fettucine Alfredo

Day Two:
Homemade Pizza with pepperoni, ham, sausage, sweet yellow onions, and bell peppers
Cole slaw

Day Three:
Beef Stew with potatoes, carrots, and celery
Cole slaw

Day Four:
Pork steaks
Fried Potatoes
Roasted Zucchini and Summer Squash

Day Five:
Meatloaf
Potatoes and gravy
Broccoli/Caulifower

Day Six:
Shrimp Kabobs
Onion and Bell Pepper Kabobs

Day Seven:
Tacos

Grocery Spending Tracking

June 15th, 2018 at 09:42 pm

I made it to Trader Joe's and to Winco today. I still need to go to Costco tomorrow, but what I need to get there is minimal: toilet paper, butter, eggs, fettucine noodles, and chicken sliders. I still have $91 left in my grocery envelope, some of which is left from last week, and there is $69 in my household envelope. I do need to get one bag of duck feed tomorrow and then next Friday I need to purchase two more.

I spent $71.21 at Trader Joe's and this is what I bought:

2 bottle olive oil spray
3 jars Alfredo pasta sauce
4 cans tuna fish
2 boxes fish nuggets
2 Strawberry Walks into a Bar bars
4 packs uncured beef hot dogs
3 sweet yellow onions
2 bags shredded cabbage
4 bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange, 1 green)
1 box peanut butter granola bars
1 lb yellow summer squash
1 container of garlic powder

Hot dog prices were up 60 cents a pack.

At Winco I spent $65.15 and I bought:

8 small Zoi greek yogurts
1 bag shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 bag shredded medium cheddar cheese
7 Beef Nongshim noodles
6 Chicken Nongshim noodles
1 container shredded Parmesan cheese
1 package hamburger buns
1 container garlic salt
2 cucumbers
1 extra large bag of French fries
1 20 count pack of 1/4 pound hamburger patties
1 box of Zingers

Lots of cheese, but Winco has it $1.01 cheaper than anywhere else and I was low on those ones. We use a lot of cheese here.

Payday Report for 6/15/18

June 15th, 2018 at 01:15 pm

Household is low because I ended up having to order some stuff online on a credit card so used the Citi card for that. I took the amount I ordered out of the household budget because it was for a new dishwasher silverware rack (the old one has holes and things are falling through it) and a pair of XXL large cleaning cloves for DS, whose hands can't fit in any of the offerings available locally.

Then after I did that I went and looked and you can actually pay directly out of your checking account with Amazon. So I entered my information on that. I've disabled one-click check out as well, so that I always have to check to make sure which method of payment is coming up instead of blithely clicking.

I was able to make a small payment on the Monster Mom Loan and I started the Laptop Fund. It feels good to be making some sort of forward progress again instead of just holding on.

$181.48 Tithe
_441.41 Autopays
_200.00 Grocery Envelope
__19.00 Household
__37.00 Allowances
_200.00 Medical Fund
_150.00 Gas Money Envelope
__81.32 Car Insurance
_100.00 Laptop Fund
_250.00 Monster Mom Loan
_145.95 Citi (Should be done now, might have something else show up)
------------
1806.16 Total Money Out



Monster Mom Loan

June 15th, 2018 at 12:58 pm

$33,750.00 Starting Balance
-__,250.00 Payment Made
------------
$33,500.00 New Balance

This week was a small payment, but DH will have 15 hours of overtime on next week's paycheck so we will be able to make a $1000 payment and will start seeing some serious progress as the OT continues the next couple of months. After that I think we will be able to manage $750 a week, plus the budgeted $500 each month. I am looking forward to getting the Monster Mom Loan under $30,000.

Fraudulent Charges and Credit Freezing Question

June 13th, 2018 at 01:45 pm

I think we are starting to see the first bit of fall out from the Equifax breach. Today someone tried to use our Master Card. This was always a card we rarely used, but we have not used in 2 months for sure. And it was for some service called NEVERBOUNCE, that cleans up email list servers or something like that. Not something we would ever sign up for. They tried to charge it three times.

Fortunately BOA was on the ball and temporarily froze the account. I had to fill out the fraud form, which is really easy online. Then they will likely be calling DH to confirm what I did online.

Tonight we are going to cancel the Master Card. Since we will be eliminating all but one card until I can figure out how to do everything through debit cards, auto bank deductions, and paypal, we might as well get started with this one. No more dragging our heels.

I know a couple of you have been through some identity theft issues before. If I freeze my credit through the three reporting agencies will that prevent me from using my card at all, or just prevent anyone from opening up a new credit card account or loan?

We won't be taking out new cards or any kind of loan until we are ready to buy a house again and need a mortgage. That is a few years down the road, so freezing our reports won't affect anything in that regard. Then when we are ready to apply for a mortgage we will unfreeze them.

Follow Up + Store + OT + New Sinking Funds

June 11th, 2018 at 02:55 pm

DD had her follow up this morning with the surgeon. I thought I was going to have to pay a $55 co-pay, but it was actually considered part of the cost of the surgery, so I didn't. Everything is healing well and DD is on track. He thinks the reason her body sent her to the ER the last time was that she was trying to do too much too soon.

I agree. I've made her stay in bed or in her computer chair for the most part in the last week and she hasn't had a return of those symptoms. If she wants to get up to talk to someone elsewhere then she has to sit down while talking and not just stand there. After another week has passed then she can start doing a little more. She's a bad rester, so I am having to be pretty strict about it.

She does get to walk the length of the house a couple of times a day for circulation, though. She's bored so I gave her my TBBT dvd's to watch. If she makes her way through the 10 seasons I have then I'll start her on Buffy, Angel, Charmed, Roswell, Lost, Farscape, or Fringe.

I did go to the store and pick up the oranges I forgot to buy on Friday and also some cherries that I impulse bought, but they were gorgeous. I bought less oranges so I could have the cherries, too. I still have enough money left to buy some Kerrygold butter, which DH will have to pick up on his way home from work since he goes right by Costco.

I had DH run the numbers for me and with the amount of overtime he worked last week, this week's paycheck will have an additional $590.83 give or take a penny. Most of that will go to the Monster Mom Loan, but I am going to put $100 of it aside to start funding a laptop fund. DH's laptop is giving him trouble and I'd like to have the money in place to replace it before it gives up the ghost. While we can do 18 months same as cash, that is still a debt and we don't want to do it that way anymore.

I'd also like to start funding a clothing envelope. DH needs new socks pretty soon. DS will need sweat pants in the fall and he still needs one more pair of regular pants then as well, since he only has 2 pairs of pants now and 1 pair of jeans that he doesn't like to wear. He's never been a jeans kid. So I will try to fund that up to $300 while DH has overtime available. I think I'll do $50 a week for that until it is funded, then switch to $50 a month.

I am considering whether or not I should try to start a Christmas Fund or not. While we have been paying back debt, Christmas has always been pretty limited, but I'm not sure I want to try to cash flow it at Christmas time or not. Maybe when I get the clothing fund funded I can switch to Christmas. I just really want to throw the majority of this at debt and get the Monster Mom Loan paid down as far as we can.

If DH gets 10 hours of OT a week through August we should be able to pay back $7000. If he gets the max, 15 hours a week, it'll be quite a bit more. I don't know if overtime will be available after that or not, but I certainly hope so. For example, if he has it through December we could pay off an additional $10,000, which would make our progress astronomical, cutting the debt almost in half. But there are no guarantees that it will last past August.

It really depends on which projects he ends up working on. Some have OT built into their budgets and others do not. Holiday weeks can throw things off as well. He will have enough paid time off to take off Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, but how that would affect overtime I'm not sure. He will likely just work on the 4th and Labor Day, though. We never do anything on those days, and the only thing we do at night on the 4th is take our chairs to the end of the driveway at 10:30 and watch the Blast Over the Bay fireworks show. We're still in bed by midnight.

So I guess I have two plans in place, one with OT and one without OT. And we'll just have to see how it all goes.

Changing Insurances...Again

June 10th, 2018 at 04:00 pm

So the job recruiting agency that DH is employed through is changing their medical plan from Aetna to Regence in July. This just got dropped on us on Friday. I've had a chance to go through it and they don't have a silver plan. They have two bronze plans, one gold plan, and one platinum plan. Can I just say the platinum plan is off the charts crazy with its premium of almost $2000 a month.

The gold plan is basically what we have now, but is $85.40 less in premiums a month. The co-pay for doctors is $5 less at $30 and the co-pay for specialists is $5 less at $50. Prescription costs are $6 less at $4 for generics. Since we have 12 prescriptions a month for the family, that will drop our costs there from $120 to $72, a savings of $48 a month.

The only downside is that the deductible we just met will start over again, and then again in 6 months. The deductible is $4000 per family. Not enough for an HSA. If MIL wasn't paying for DD's recent medical bills that would be very hard to absorb, but with it, we can manage to pay the deductible on our own. And having an additional $133.40 in the budget (minus whatever they take out for taxes on that) will be nice. The out of pocket cap is higher at $7500, though. Still, it's a prety good plan over all.

We can't even look at the bronze plans. They have $10,000 deductibles and pay for nothing until you hit that and have a $14,000 out of pocket cap. They don't have co-pays until you hit that deductible either and then it is 50% of the visit cost. That is basically not having insurance at all unless you have a major catastrophe. No good for us. No insurance would be cheaper if we are paying out of pocket for everything, but we don't dare go that route again after what happened last time.

Of course if DH does get hired on direct, and there is no sign of that yet, it would mean switching insurance yet again with another, albeit much lower, deductible.

Medical costs have skyrocketed in the last 9 years. I am not sure I will ever stop resenting the men and women that caused this or the Unaffordable Care Act they rode in on that drove insurance costs sky high for the majority of the country and drove many families to not quite poverty, but with an income just high enough to not qualify for subsidies and no way to get back ahead, because 1/3 to 1/2 of their income now goes to pay for insurance premiums and high deductibles. Medical should not cost as much as a house payment. /rant

Payday Report for 6/8/18

June 9th, 2018 at 03:25 pm

After paying all of the bills and funds allotted to this week we have $60 left in checking. DH has finally got a working debit card, so now the medical checking account is working as intended. I am funding it to the tune of $200 a week and then any excess in that fund each month will be saved towards future big medical expenses.

The only thing not funded out of that is the chiropractor which has its own line on the budget. If DH does get hired on direct at some point, we'll be stuck paying COBRA for a while and have a new deductible, so I want a huge medical cushion. Plus, we need money in there for future surgeries we know are coming.

$122.47 Tithe
_200.00 Grocery Envelope
__50.00 Household Envelope
_275.00 Chiropractor Monthly Family Plan
_200.00 Medical Fund
__90.91 Internet
_100.00 Car Insurance Fund
__36.00 Allowances
__50.00 Car Maintenance Envelope
__36.00 Garbage Fund (paid every two months)
__25.00 DS's Driver's Permit Renewal
-------------
1186.38 Total Money Out

Relief

June 7th, 2018 at 02:13 pm

My mother-in-law says she is going to pay my daughter's medical bills. I burst into tears on hearing that. I was so worried about this and that it would have completely wiped us out financially. I am so grateful that FIL left her so well provided for. With the value of the house she's just barely a millionaire. Without it, she's a 3/4 millionaire. So she can definitely help her kids and grandkids. And she has FIL's pension for life, plus social security, which covers all of her monthly bills and leaves her with about $900 a month leftover, so helping us won't put her in a bad way at all. They are making her take a distribution of $16K from the 401K, so she has the money available to do this without even breaking a sweat.

Our out of pocket costs are capped at $4500, which is more than we currently have in savings. It isn't so much that I would feel awful about her paying this. I don't feel bad about her paying as this is a gift she wants to give her granddaughter, but if it were $10K to $20K, I'd really hesitate. I am pretty sure she will be helping my pregnant niece with her medical bills as well and my other niece with living costs as her baby's father is out of the picture due to addiction issues.

I am just so grateful she has the resources and the heart to do this for us. I have always thought that I lucked out with my parents-in-law. We were always happy to help them with whatever we could, driving them to appointments after FIL couldn't drive anymore, taking MIL to do all the legal stuff after FIL died, doing yard work, helping with Christmas lights, taking her shopping, etc. Now MIL is able to help us back and wants to.

I really thought this was going to bury us. It is just such a relief to know that it is not.

Check Up

June 6th, 2018 at 02:04 pm

I had my six month check up yesterday for blood pressure and cholesterol. Things are still under control with the medication and I've lost 5 pounds since my last doctor's visit about 3 weeks ago for the infection. He'd like to see my HDL a little higher and my triglycerides a little lower. He wants them down about 6 points.

I also got a pneumonia shot. I am having a little bit of a reaction to it on my arm. It doesn't hurt though. The nurse said it might over the next two days. I used to get pneumonia every year and haven't gotten it more than once in the fifteen years since I started getting the pneumonia shot when needed. Unlike the flu shot, it actually works for me.

The co-pay for the visit was $35. I wrote a check out of the medical checking account for that. I am really liking having that, but I have to remember to grab that checkbook before I leave. I forgot the first time and had to go back for it. Fortunately I had lots of time before my appointment as I tend to get there early and I remembered before I got off my block.

We still haven't been able to get DH's debit card for that account working. They did a hard activation on Friday, but it still won't let him choose a pin. We double checked to make sure it wasn't thinking we only needed one pin between us and it wasn't. They don't have a way to resolve it over the phone. They just keep saying see your financial institution even though we already have. DH is going to pop in again today to see if they can give him a pin there instead. I miss the old days when they would send you a pin in the mail. I know it is safer for security to do it this way, but it has to actually work to work.

Meal Planning for the Week

June 2nd, 2018 at 07:01 pm

Here are my menus for dinner starting tonight. I don't necessarily make these in the order I've listed. While I like having a plan in place for the week because it allows me to stick to the grocery budget, I don't particularly like being tied down every single night of the week, so I just check off whichever meal I make and then the next day choose from the list. Sometimes I go in order and sometimes I don't.

It gives me a little more freedom if I don't feel like making something more intensive that night and want to make an easier one off the list, without completely flying by the seat of my pants. I also have a couple of back up meals I can always rotate in if I don't feel good for ease of making by someone else. One is pancakes and ham and the other is tacos, though tacos are super easy even when I don't feel well if I make them in the electric pressure cooker. No baby-sitting after the initial browning stage.

Day One:
Homemade chili using all freeze dried foods (has veggies in it, shredded cheese on top)
Baked Potatoes

Day Two:
Brined apricot rabbit legs
Fried potatoes
Green beans

Day Three:
Fried chicken
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Broccoli/Cauliflower

Day Four:
Chicken Stir-fry (lots of veggies)
Rice

Day Five:
Homemade pizza with turkey ham, pepperoni, sausage, bell peppers, and onions
Salad (from the garden)

Day Six:
Beef stew (potatoes, carrots, celery, onions)
Salad (from the garden)

Day Seven:
Spaghetti with Meatballs
Garlic Bread
Salad

Payday Report for 6/1/18

June 1st, 2018 at 05:56 pm

$122.47 Tithe
_200.00 Groceries
_200.00 Medical
__50.00 Household
__35.00 DS's Allowance
_500.00 Utilities to Mom
__56.83 Life Insurance DH
__45.30 Life Insurance Me
-------------
$1209.60 Total Money Out

I have $34.04 left in checking. Some of that is carry over from last week.

Grocery Spending Tracking

June 1st, 2018 at 05:49 pm

DS and I did the banking this morning and I funded my envelopes. I put $200 in the Grocery envelope and $50 in the Household envelope. I put $200 into the Medical checking account and took out $35 for DS's allowance. DD is not getting one as she is doing no chores while recovering from surgery.

After that DS and I went shopping. In the Household category I spent $19.54 on dishwasher soap. It was a very good sale. In the Grocery category I spent $159.66. I still need to buy tissues and body wash from the Household and yogurt and soup from the Grocery categories. I may get some butter, too, yet, but that depends on how fast we go through what we have. I am hoping to push the butter off another week.

Groceries I bought at Safeway:

4 Miracle Whip
2 lbs organic tomatoes
4 boxes organic spaghetti
2 boxes organic penne pasta
12 Chef Boyardee Mini-Ravioli
6 organic Nectarines
1 cantaloupe
2 Jif naturals creamy peanut butter
1 Justin's honey peanut butter (for DS)
4 organic ketchup
1 2 lb bag Mexi-Blend shredded cheese
2 potato bread
2 dynamite bread
1 Thousand Island dressing
4 jars Prego pasta sauce
3 1/2 gallons of milk

I spent $117.61 there. Almost everything I bought there was on sale. Only the milk, bread, and Jif peanut butter was full price.

What I bought at Haggen:

3 lbs organic grapes
1 organic cauliflower
5 lbs organic broccoli
1 bunch cilantro
1 yellow summer squash
1 container shredded Parmesan cheese

I spent $42.05 there. The only thing on sale was the grapes. The other items were cheaper at Haggen then at Safeway, though. Now I need to sit down and make up my meal plan.

Good News!

May 31st, 2018 at 06:21 pm

I know I already posted today, but I just had to share. DH just texted me to tell me that starting next week he will be getting overtime again. He will be able to get 10 to 15 hours of OT a week, which if I did the math right and I just do it at a base of 10 hours OT, will be an additional $1200 a month after taxes. Well, every four weeks. If he gets 15 hours a week it will be an additional $1800 a month after taxes. That would start with the June 15th paycheck.

They told him he would get it through August, which also means DH has a job through August. Now if they will hire him on directly after the waiting period is up on June 4th, I will really feel like things are on the right track again for our future. If he does get hired on direct I will have to get used to getting paid every 2 weeks instead of every week, but that's not hard to budget for. It beats budgeting the weird, irregular pay he got when working 3 weeks on/3 weeks off.

I don't know how much OT will go towards medical bills and how much we can throw at the Monster Mom Loan. I wish I knew how much the operation out of pocket was going to come to. I want to plan for it and then see how much beyond that I will have to throw at the loan. We haven't had insurance this good since the first six months of our marriage.

I know DD has hit her deductible. I just don't know how much else we have to cover. Actually, I think her out of pocket might be $3000. I'll have to have DH check on that. If it is I can start planning. I just hope no one turns out to have been out of network. It's an in-network doctor and an in-network hospital, but you never know with the anesthesiologists. That's what could get us. We did pay $413 to the doctor before surgery, but that was to hit the deductible.

There is also a possibility she could get something like Bridge as she is unemployed and an adult who has been disabled with this. I think we probably make too much if they consider DH's income, but if it is just based on her, maybe. I'm not counting on it, but they did bring up something about it, so we'll see.

I just want to know what the future brings so I can be prepared for it. But then, don't we all?

Grocery and Household Planning

May 31st, 2018 at 02:16 pm

I went through my freezer to decide what kind of meats I want to build my meals around this pay period and checked on my levels of onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, and sweet potatoes (all still good), and then I sat down with my price book spreadsheet and the grocery ads and filled things in around what I already have plus any super sales for staples I want to get.

I wrote everything out on a master shopping list divided into different stores and I put the prices of everything down and added them up. I am under budget with enough left to get milk or bread if we run out later in the week.

Safeway is having a very good sale on Cascade dishwasher soap. I need some, but the sale is $5.49 each if you buy 4 or more, so I am going to go ahead and buy 4. I like having a stockpile and I have $12 left in the household budget, so with payday's $50 added, I'll have $62. I also need to buy my son's body wash and some Puffs tissues, likely a 6 pack. I went through a ton of tissues with this cold. How much body wash I buy will depend on the cost of the Puffs, but I would like to stock up a little.

With the extra $12 I can easily absorb the cost of the extra dishwasher soap into the Household envelope. Unlike with food, I have to account for sales tax of 8.7% in the Household budget. Next week I will be buying more toilet paper (I like to have 2 cases on hand) and deodorant. Something else may crop up, but so far the $50 a week seems to be covering it all.

Tracking our expenses so closely is making me feel an enormous amount of freedom. I know that we will meet all of our bills and have enough extra to pay some on the Monster Mom Loan. I don't feel nearly as overwhelmed now that I know where every dollar goes. I am looking forward to tomorrow when I can fund my envelopes. It is good to have focus again and realize there is a way out if we keep our eyes on our goals.

Finished the Budget for June

May 30th, 2018 at 05:24 pm

I have done a detailed budget for the month of June, breaking it down into four weekly budgets, assigning amounts to each week and making every dollar work for us. While doing that I kept coming up with extra money each week. I figured when I got to the last week it would zero out, but it didn't.

Turns out when I added up the four paychecks I must have made an error, because I had more money than we thought. I was off by $110, so that means I can actually bump the grocery budget to $200 a week instead of $175. I added the extra to the cushion category, which put that at $40.80 a month. I want to build a small cushion into the checking account.

I am really grateful to have found that mistake, because we have gone over $175 both weeks so far, but still stayed under $400 for the two weeks. I was really trying hard, too, but when you are feeding four adults, 2 of which are male and 1 of which has extreme dietary limitations, and trying to eat organic at least on the dirty dozen, turkey, and chicken, that extra $25 a week is going to make things a lot easier.

There are still a few things I can cut yet in the grocery budget, but because I was sick, didn't. For example, I bought 8 bags of chicken fried rice from TJ's at $2.99 a bag which is $23.92.

Normally I make chicken fried rice at home and I have all the ingredients for it. I do up about 16 cups worth of rice in the rice cooker and then add some coconut aminos, peas, carrots, corn, shredded meat of some sort, scrambled egg, ginger, and garlic and stir-fry it in a bit of chicken broth. I used to use sesame oil, but not anymore with DD's restrictions. Then I divide it into quart size freezer bags. It is a huge difference in cost. I can make up as much rice for about $8, a savings of about $16.

So I know I can balance stuff out a little better to come in under budget, I just have to get there and be well enough to do it. As soon as I feel good enough to make our bread and rolls from scratch again that will help, too. Convenience happens when I don't feel well, so as soon as I finish this cold I will do up my rice. Or maybe even tomorrow. I did a lot today, got caught up on dishes and halfway caught up on laundry and didn't have the energy to do more than just make dinner today. I do have to make up more pudding tonight, but that will be easy.

Tomorrow I have to make breakfast burritos for the freezer and I will at least make the rice in the cooker. It stir-fries best when it is a day old.

I am taking lots of breaks so I don't push myself too hard. I will go to bed early, too. I don't want to relapse just when I am starting to feel human again.

I am reading a new library book, "Slaying the Debt Dragon," by Cherie Lowe, and one of the things she recommends is naming your debts. They called theirs the dragon. I did this in the past when I called the credit card companies the Evil Empire and my whole goal then was to bring down the Evil Empire. But with just having the loan left to Mom that doesn't seem appropriate. She's not an empire. So I am dubbing it the Monster Mom Loan. Not to say my mother is a monster, just that the Mom Loan is. It tickles me and gives me just a little more focus. It's weird in my head, but I like it there.

Payday Report for 5/25/18

May 30th, 2018 at 12:24 pm

I had some money leftover from this paycheck but we ended up using it to go over on the grocery budget. I had to buy pudding and Jello and extra milk to make the pudding for DD for after her surgery. I didn't think about that ahead of time. The Jello and pudding were on sale for 99 cents a box if you bought four boxes. I'll get the hang of this, but it may take a few more weeks. There is about $30 left in checking.

I added the tithe for my Thrive commission check into the tithe from DH's paycheck so it is a little higher than usual. My commission check was close to $50.

$128.72 Tithe
__55.00 Co-pay eye doctor
_175.00 Sleep doctor
_175.00 Groceries
__50.00 Household
__81.00 Truck Tabs
_125.75 Van Tabs
__35.00 DS Allowance
__25.00 Blow Money Me
__25.00 Blow Money DH
_100.00 OTC Medications and Vitamins
_150.00 Gas Money
---------
$1125.47

Surgery was a Success

May 29th, 2018 at 09:29 pm

DD came through her surgery with flying colors. The doctor said she did amazingly well. Her gall bladder was white because there was so much scarring from gall bladder attacks. The doctor said it was full of sludge and gravel. No big stones as she had been passing them all week.

She already looks and feels so much better. Her color is back and she's up and walking around. Her operation was textbook. We left the hospital about an hour and a half after she woke up. She can try eating very lean red meat in a month, so she'll still be on turkey, chicken, fish, beans, and lentils for protein. The first 24 hours though will be pudding and Jello, broth, and maybe mashed potatoes if she is up for it.

Thanks for all your prayers for her and continued ones for her healing would be appreciated. Now we wait for the bills to come in.

Making a Price Book + Request for Lentils Recipes

May 26th, 2018 at 05:00 pm

One of the things Amy Dazcyzan recommends in the Tightwad Gazette books is to make a price book. I have never done this and I really never considered doing it before today, but it would have really come in handy these last two weeks when making up the grocery list, so today I sat down with as many receipts as I could still find and started making a spreadsheet with the prices of everything that would fall under either groceries or household expenses.

This way when I make up my grocery list I will know approximately how much everything costs so I can make sure I am coming in under budget, give or take a sale or two. I will also know which store has the better price on what, though I pretty much have that in my head already. It will also let me know if I need to bump a staples purchase to a different week or if I have enough in the household budget for whatever purchase I want to make that week.

I always thought it would be a tedious process, and it probably would be if I were doing it by hand, but typing it into a spreadsheet is easy enough. I put everything in alphabetical order, and then if I need to add anything new I can just insert a sheet row in the appropriate spot and still keep it in order. I do love modern technology.

I think it may be time for me to put the Tightwad Gazette books on hold again at the library. I am in a way different place than when I've read them each time before, much more heavily focused on the food budget and budgeting more tightly in general. I've learned something new with each read and I think that was because I was open to something different each time.

Oh, also, I am going to venture into cooking with lentils. I am looking for some good recipes that do not have beef, lamb, or pork in them. Most of them seem to be made with ham and she can't eat that much fat. Chicken or turkey or fish are okay and so is vegetarian. Lentils are a protein my daughter can eat (and likes) without fear of it upsetting her gall bladder, or in the aftermath of having it taken out. I just found out that Thrive Life has lentils, too, so I added a #10 can to my monthly order. If she likes those ones, then I'll get a bucket.

ER Visit and Surgery Date Set

May 23rd, 2018 at 01:36 pm

I spent all day Monday, from a little before 1 p.m. until midnight at the ER with my daughter. At midnight DH tagged me out and I went home to sleep because I had an early appointment on Tuesday morning, but they were home an hour later. They sent DD home with percocet and we were able to get a relatively quick surgery date of the 29th, so she has a week to wait. The meds should last that long. I will be so glad to see the backside of her gall bladder.

I don't know how much everything is going to cost and I don't know how we will pay for it if it costs more than $6000, but we will figure it out. DH says he will probably start getting overtime in June again, which will be a great help. The current project he is on, the one with no allowance for OT, wraps up at the end of the month.

They have him lined up for several more projects. His boss has said he contractually can't talk about bringing him on as a direct employee until June 4th. I don't know if that means anything or not, though, like is he going to talk to him on June 4th and bring him on, or just a statement of fact.

I do hope they bring him on as permanent because the benefits are outrageously good. Better insurance than we have now (which is really good, but expensive) for $250 a month for the whole family. Plus vision is $14 a month and dental is $100. So $364 total. Which is a far cry from the $1500 we are paying now. A share of company stock, which is worth $16K. 6% matching in the 401K. Paid vacation and sick days. Paid jury duty days off. I believe he also said good deals on disability and life insurance as well. I really hope this happens.

We'd have to pay COBRA for a couple of months, though, I'm sure. And that'll be $1500 a month. Worth it in the long run, though.

So I had to pay $413 today to the surgeon for the upcoming surgery. I don't know how much I will have to pay the hospital yet as a down payment. I am guessing around $1250. At least they can't turn her down for this surgery based on her BMI. Of course that is why it will be in the hospital and not the surgical suite at the doctor's office. I think DD has met her deductible now.

I have a killer head cold. I woke up with it Monday morning and so yeah, I had it the whole time we were in the ER. It was worse on Tuesday. Today I think it is at its height so hopefully tomorrow I will feel a lot better. Unless I caught something in the ER to add on top of it, because you know how my immune system likes to do things like that.

I got an email today saying that an old virus software on a computer we no longer have had been renewed automatically and charged to a credit card number we no longer have. I think it is the same card, just with a different number. I hope that means it didn't go through anywhere.

I am keeping an eye on the card that it used to be the number of just in case and then will dispute it. They worded it like they had already done it, but it hasn't shown up. I thought I had stopped any auto renewals, so maybe they are just trying to pull a fast one. Trying to figure out how to contact them through the info on the email is nearly impossible. We no longer do auto renewals on things so if they are trying this again we have to nip it in the bud, pronto.

Grocery Shopping And Sticking to the Budget

May 18th, 2018 at 07:29 pm

So I stuck successfully to my grocery list, with 2 exceptions. I bought a case of Nongshim noodles and 3 ears of corn. Everything else was on the list and I came in under budget. I spent $155.73, so I still have $19.27 left in my grocery envelope. I may buy 2 packages of the hot dogs DH likes still and even then I'd have enough left over if we run out of milk.

I bought mostly to fill in around the gaps of my meal plan and I think I will have some overrun into the next week with onions and potatoes, but I am not sure yet. We eat a lot of potatoes, but I usually only get two bags or six pounds a week. This week I got 15 pounds.

Here's what I got at Haggen:

1 pot with 2 cucumber plants in it (yes, this counts as food or at least future food)
Baby spinach
4 red onions
15 pounds of potatoes (red, gold, and russet)
2 yellow bell peppers
Radishes
2 1 lb chubs of breakfast sausage
3 pounds ground chicken
2 pounds ground turkey
2 1 lb jars Jif Natural peanut butter
1 1 lb jar Jason honey peanut butter
1 bag of ice

And what I got at Safeway:

2 1/2 gallons of milk
1 2 lb bag of sharp cheddar cheese (same price as a brick)
2 bottles of ketchup
2 potato breads
1 dynamite bread
1 Thousand Island dressing

And what I got at Winco:

1 case of Nongshim beef noodle soup
1 bottle of Mirin (rice wine for recipes)
1 quart strawberry Zoi yogurt
2 red bell peppers
2 orange bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
3 ears of corn
2 cucumbers

I feel really good about this. I didn't get much in the way of convenience items. The noodles are (but they are the only version I've found outside of Trader Joe's that don't have MSG in them). The shredded cheese is, but it was the same price as the brick. So I definitely have to cook, but I've been doing a lot better lately so that hasn't been a problem. And we haven't even been tempted to eat out, but then I haven't had an RA flare for a few weeks, either. Everyone prefers my cooking anyway, even the Chinese dishes, which I am getting better and better at every time I make them.

I am already planning my next shopping trip for next Friday. I will have to get a couple items from Costco, some seasonings, eggs, cheese, ground turkey, sausage patties, and possibly butter. I will very strictly stick to that list, because I will still have to get regular groceries that week. Costco can be a money suck if you aren't very, very careful. If I stay on top of this, I really think I can do it. It just requires planning, and if there is one thing that I am good at, it is planning.

Payday Report and DS's Plan for his Future Job

May 18th, 2018 at 12:52 pm

$1400.00 Citi Card
__82.13 Amex
_125.17
-----------
$1607.30

The paycheck plus what was left of the $1000 went towards finishing off the credit cards. AMEX is done and all auto pays have been transferred off it, so as soon as it clears I will be cutting up that card.

I will finish off the Citi card on next Friday and then it will only be used for the auto pays. We will take the credit cards out of our wallets. They can't be an option. Also next Friday I have car tabs due and a medical bill. There won't be a lot left over, enough to fund the grocery envelope and the household envelope. But then starting on the June 1st payday and continuing forward, we should be able to fund everything else with cash throughout the month.

Yesterday we opened a checking account for my son and then he set up his paypal account to hook into it, so he can now make online purchases directly out of his bank account and no one has to use a credit card. He needed a checking account anyway as he is going to get a job this summer and will need it for direct deposit. He's had a savings account since the year he was born.

He wants to read The Total Money Makeover after my husband is finished with it. He is very determined not to carry debt in his life except for possibly a mortgage. We've already talked about 10% of his income going into retirement from the start. He may not qualify for a 401K immediately, but he can do a Roth IRA until he does. He will also be saving 40% for college and 10% will go to tithing. Then he will need to put 20% into savings for a car and insurance and the remaining 20% will be what he can spend.

He wants to make a budget as soon as he gets his first paycheck, but before anything else he is going to save up $1000 for an emergency fund so he has it in place when he is able to afford a car. I guess we are rubbing off on him. Not so sure about our daughter. With her medical issues I despair of her ever being able to hold down a job.

Taking Steps to Move Back to the Envelope System

May 17th, 2018 at 04:41 pm

I went to the credit union today and took out $475 in cash to fund 3 of my envelopes. I put $175 into the groceries envelope, $50 into the household envelope, and $250 into the medical envelope. For medical I am going to start using an old checking account at a different credit union. I took the $250 there this afternoon, deposited it, ordered a box of checks, and ordered debit cards. They even had some pretty checks that were the same cost as plain ones. I chose an American flag with the bald eagle soaring in front of it. I didn't think my husband would fancy the butterflies. Big Grin So that took $16 out of the medical account right there, leaving a balance of $234.

I tend to write checks for medical except prescriptions. We have been using the credit card for that because we usually go through the drive-thru and it is easier than trying to write out a check on the steering wheel. So we will use the debit card for prescriptions once it arrives. That way DH can have a card, he usually picks up the medicine, and I will have the checkbook. That debit card will be used only for medical. It just makes it a little easier than playing with cash and not having a paper trail. I need a paper trail for medical if we need to deduct again.

I will be funding the medical account with $800 every month, with $200 coming out of each paycheck starting on June 1st. That should cover co-pays, prescriptions, and allow us to save for DD's surgeries. This does not include the amount for the chiropractor which is a monthly set amount for the entire family and I will just pay that out of regular checking. It has it's own budget category.

When the medical account reaches $1000 I will send any additional to the online bank and earmark it for medical on the spreadsheet. I'm not sure when they will let DD have her surgeries, not until her BMI is 40% however long that takes, so the extra will go to save up for that. But whenever the account drops below $1000 I will start adding money back into it. I am not sure how much we really need to set aside for medical. It varies so much in a month. This month alone has 6 co-pays, not to mention the numerous prescriptions.

Because we are switching over to mostly using cash and checks, I am not sure we will be able to make a payment on the loan to Mom until June 8th. I figure if I make the $500 payment towards the beginning of the month, then I will have to stick to the budget the rest of the month. If there is any extra at the end of the month of June I will tack it on to the July payment. If I treat it like a bill due the 2nd payday of the month, that should keep me on track.

I think I'm going to like this Gazelle intensity thing. Even if I can't do it 100% like Dave Ramsey, because we have to keep the EF at $6000 instead of $1000 for upcoming medical reasons, I am trying to focus in like we are. And really, we are. The EF is $1000, the medical fund is the rest of it. Once the surgeries are over than we can be fully doing it, but I don't know when that will be. I guess until then it will just have to be baby steps. Yeah, I saw it. Did it anyway.

Meal Planning for the Week with a Budget

May 16th, 2018 at 11:16 pm

If SavingAdvice logs me out one more time I am going to scream. It shouldn't do it every five minutes. I wish they would fix the blogs, already. So many things are broken here.

I built my meal plan mostly around things we have on hand this week and then made my grocery list based on what I need to fill into the meal plan, what I need to add for lunches, and then a few staples I need. The grocery budget will be set at $175 a week for now and the household budget, which includes things like toilet paper, personal care items, Ziplocs, and detergent, will be set at $50 a week. Once I go shopping I will list what I got and how much I actually spent.

Day One:
Tacos (everything on hand for this)
Canned Pineapples (on hand)

Day Two:
Chicken Wings (on hand)
Fried Potatoes with bell peppers and onions
Cole slaw (all ingredients on hand)
Canned Pears (on hand)

Day Three:
Lamb Kabobs (lamb roast in the freezer)
Veggie Kabobs of purple onions and bell peppers

Day Four:
Turkey Legs (in the freezer)
Mashed Potatoes and Homemade Gravy
Canned Green Beans (on hand)
Sugared Strawberries (in the freezer)

Day Five:
BBQ Pork Steaks (in the freezer) smothered in onions
Baked Potaoes
Cole slaw (ingredients on hand)
Sugared Strawberries (in the freezer)

Day Six:
Spaghetti with one jar of Vodka sauce and one jar of marinara sauce (all in the cupboard)
Chicken Meatballs
Salad (lettuce from the garden)

Day Seven:
Shrimp Kabobs (big bag of shrimp in the freezer)
Veggie Kabobs of purple onions and bell pepeprs


I Finally Opened the Door and In He Walks

May 15th, 2018 at 11:20 am

I don't usually buy books, but I made a book purchase on Saturday. Yes, my library does have this book, but I was 13th on the waiting list. High demand books mean that people can only keep them out 2 weeks instead of 3, but that was still looking at a possibility of 26 weeks before I could read it, assuming people turned it in on time. Most people don't.

So I handed over my cash, $27.51, to the young man at B&N, who tried to sell me a membership card, but no. I don't buy books often enough to earn back and then benefit from the savings. What book did I buy, you may be asking by now? Well, I finally gave in and decided to read Dave Ramsey. I bought The Total Money Makeover.

I have been avoiding Dave Ramsey for the last 12 years, to be honest. Yes, I did do a debt snowball, but I didn't know about it from reading him. I just figured doing it like that would make me feel like I was making progress faster. Yes, I did build and keep a $1000 emergency fund before doing it, but that was on advice from people here, not based on his method. Although it probably was, since a lot of you have read him. But I wasn't going to.

It wasn't that I thought he was bad or anything. I just didn't want to give up my paid off credit cards. Well, I did give up some of them, but we still have 5. We pay them off in full each month. But...oh, and here's the big but, I've been feeling for a while that we weren't using them responsibly enough, because they are just too easy to use.

But my chiropractor's office plays Dave Ramsey and I kept hearing him on my visits. And then he came up in my suggested videos on youtube. God has been putting things in my path right now that I have been struggling to deal with. Dave is just the last in a line.

First I was struggling with tithing while still in debt to my mother and my internet preacher answered a question on tithing. Then I was concerned that I lacked motivation, but in getting the spending back under control and in doing my five times a week Bible study. Then I was struggling with forgiveness for DH's sister and nieces over the stuff they pulled at Thanksgiving.

Forgiveness was in the next lesson and in such a way that it heals the person who forgives, not the one who holds on to the anger. Doesn't mean I'm willing to have holidays with them, but I might be able to at least see them now. So I asked for help about the budget and in walks Dave Ramsey, so to speak.

So I just finished reading the book last night. It took me 3 days. And I figured out how come I felt that way about credit cards. It's because we just buy what we need with no thought to it. And because I know we will pay it off each month in full, I haven't really been sticking to a budget when it comes to groceries and household expenses or clothing or eating out.

And with these bad habits getting out of hand, things felt tight every month and I didn't feel like I could possibly make payments on the loan to Mom, the only debt we have left. So I sat down and made up a better budget and if we actually stick to it, then yes, I can start paying Mom at least $500 a month.

DH's mother just gave us $1000. We had thought to put it in the Emergency Fund, but I think instead, we will use it to get current. The next two paydays will pay off what we have left on the credit cards before they are due and then we will go down to simply charging the auto pays, which total $407.50. It might be a little lower, but I am allowing $50 for Ting. We don't always go that high, some months we are lower, but we have never been above it, so that is what I put in the budget. But we won't use the credit card for anything else. Nothing but the auto pays. And we will use paypal from our bank account for online purchases, but not until we've had a moratorium on online purchases for six months or so.

I have also budgeted $1000 for groceries/household. I do think I can keep it lower than that, but I haven't been. Since I track my spending, more or less, I know I haven't. We are switching to cash for that. I will start with putting $250 in the groceries envelope. I figure $200 for groceries and $50 for household. Maybe I should break it down into two envelopes, except I usually buy household stuff when I go grocery shopping. We'll see. I know I need to get toilet paper, deodorant, and quart size Ziplocs, which will take up a good share of that $50.

I have transferred all the auto pays to one card, and as soon as the last little bit on the AMEX is paid off, I am going to cut it up and cancel it. I was just using it for Netflix and Hulu. I am also going to cancel my Best Buy card and no longer do any 18 or 12 month same as cash deals. I paid off the last one with part of our tax return. Instead I will be saving up money in a computer fund, though that won't start for a while.

I am not sure I am ready to cut the cord completely with credit cards, but I can't see having more than 3. One is the miles card, which DH will need if he starts working in Alaska again and has to fly all the time. He usually got 2 free flights a year, sometimes 3, so it definitely was worth it. Then there is the one my daughter is a signer on. Then there is the Costco Citi card, but I am not sure if that is going to be worth keeping yet. Without charging all of our groceries and gas, the amount of cash back will dramatically drop, and that was the only reason I got it in the first place.

My head knows that the best thing for us to do is to get rid of all but one card, but I am scared to do it. Mostly because the EF is not where I want it to be. I know you aren't supposed to use credit cards as a back up EF, but you know what 2016 and 2017 were like for us. If we had run out of money at least we would have had those cards to fall back on, which of course, is exactly that attitude I'm not supposed to have.

I knew Dave would let me have it over these ideas and I wasn't wrong. It sure has shown me what I need to work on and try to not rely so much on my security gland ruling what I do.

So next, I go back to an envelope, pay with cash system, except for those auto pays. I am looking into whether or not there are ways to pay them without paying by card. I think you can pay both Netflix and Hulu through paypal, but I'm not 100% sure. I think we can put storage on direct withdrawal, but I don't know about Ting. I haven't been able to find anything about Ting. But one of the reasons I really like doing auto pays on the credit card is so that I only have one due date to worry about, not an additional five. Right now I only have two to worry about and they come out on the same day.

So I will fund this coming payday's grocery/household envelope with $250.00 from the gift money, so all the money in the paycheck can go for the tithe and the Citi card.

I have already handed DH an envelope marked vending for the vending machines at work with $7 in ones that I had in my purse. He is to get $25 a month to use in the vending machines at work (he's been charging them). This gives him a little over $1 a day and the charge is 85 cents, so anything left at the end he can spend or set aside and save it for something he wants. Or he can save it all and quit using the vending machine altogether.

I will also have my own $25 envelope for something I want to do. I have no idea what I want to do with it, but sometimes just saving makes me happy.

I really would like to be able to squeeze out more than $500 a month to pay Mom. It might be $100, it might be $25, who knows? But whatever I can throw at it. She won't like getting weird amounts, but I don't care. It is not up to her how much I pay back at a time. It is up to DH and me.

As soon as we know what is going on in June with the job, I can decide what to do with the Emergency Fund. If I want to bump it down to $1000 and pay Mom with the rest or if we need to keep it there in case of possible job loss. It is scary to keep it at just $1000, but Dave says it keeps you more driven to pay off the debt so you can build the EF up to 3 to 6 months of expenses.

I get it. I get everything Dave says. I think I'm in the stage where I am not yet drinking the Kool-Aid, but I have read the ingredients and directions on the package and started preparing the beverage. He has his baby steps and I have mine. I do want to get there. And I want to get there fast, so time to put our heads down and start pushing that stone uphill.

Payday Report

May 11th, 2018 at 08:44 pm

$100.00 Cash
$122.47 Tithe
$124.85 Master Card
+900.00 Citi Visa
---------
1247.32 Total Money Out

I have $36 left in checking. So far we are on track to have quite a bit of the 5/25 paycheck available to go to savings and a loan payment to Mom, barring any unforeseen circumstances. It really makes a difference cutting out eating out/take out.

Emergency Fund Update

May 11th, 2018 at 08:37 pm

Today I cashed in the coin jar. There were a lot of ones in there, too.

$6036.61 Beginning Balance
+__52.50 Deposit Added
----------
$6089.11 New Balance

$910.89 to go to hit my next goal of $7000.

Bits and Pieces

May 7th, 2018 at 04:07 pm

I got down to the doctor's office today only for them to tell me I'm a week off. Oh, my gosh, I thought it was the fourteenth. I know this year is going by fast, but how'd I jump forward a week? Total glitch in the matrix moment. So, since I didn't have to save the money in checking for the appointment after all, I went ahead and paid the AMEX card off. That was $155.95. Then since the garbage bill arrived and I still had enough left in checking to pay it, I did. That was $70.69. I have $56.75 left in checking.

That leaves me 3 more paychecks this month out of which will come three tithe checks, a $108 or so MC bill, one co-pay, and one full pay at the doctors, and then the Citi which is what we charge gas and groceries and storage on. If we are really careful, I may have some extra money to put into the EF this month. DH isn't getting any overtime at all right now, so it is much harder, but I just have to stick to my guns and not get take out or eat out this month.

I did have to make some clothing purchases. I bought a new skillet, two pairs of shorts, two tank tops, a six-pack of socks, and then a nice blouse and pair of linen slacks for my nephew's upcoming wedding. All of my dressy clothes are warm and this is an outdoor June wedding.

I also bought a dress for my daughter for the same wedding. She also needs shoes. And I'll need new insoles for my dress shoes or I'll be in horrible pain all day. DS and DH will each need a short-sleeved dress shirt, plus DH needs a few more for work. All of his long-sleeved dress shirts are getting too hot to wear now. I've got money in the clothing budget and will add some, so we should be able to do that between now and June.

I stopped in at Good Will and found a nice casserole dish without the lid, but I have a lid to the same shaped casserole dish that I broke a long time ago, some garden twine, some garden clips for attaching plants to stakes, and some planting bags. I'm going to put my peppers in the planting bags. I am going to be growing zucchini and cucumbers vertically so the twine and clips were a great find. I spent a little over $200 at both stores.

I met my goal of writing 10,000 words last week and have set the same goal for this week. That's four chapters. I am so happy with how this is going. I'm really enjoying my characters, although I have one twelve-year-old little brother who likes to make his role in the book bigger than it probably should be. But what are you going to do? When you get a character that writes itself, I've found its best to just follow where they lead.

I've also set a goal of blogging at least three times a week. This will be my fourth this month, so I think I am on track for that. I'd like to make it daily again, but who knows? There is a lot to do in the garden. Speaking of which, the sun is behind the big tree now, so this is the perfect time to work in the garden, in the shade, so I'm off to do that. I've got a lot of seeds to get in the ground today.


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