Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cutting the (Home Phone) Cord

Here's my embarrassing secret....I have a sentimental attachment to my home phone number.  It's the one my guppies learned when they were little.  It's the first phone number that belonged to the house Papa and I officially "owned" and could actually call "home". 

And, it's total cost per year is just about $370.00.  Ouch! I'm thinking it's time for an attitude adjustment on my part...

Papa, the Guppies, and I all have cell phones. My cell phone is the main contact number for everyone except my CVS and Big Y cards, which can easily be changed I know.  In my heart, I knew this day was coming so I kept track of calls coming in on the house phone...Three in the past week.  Two telemarketers and one wrong number. 

It's financially irresponsible and just plain silly to keep the house phone any longer.  Tonight, I'll tell the family at dinner (not that they will care that much) and tomorrow I make the call to Frontier to cancel.  After all, I have the memories of my little guppies reciting the phone number to me and that's going to have to be enough.  

There are at least a thousand ways that $360 can be spent.  It's a no brainer and my heart needs to deal with it...

Playing the Gas Game with my Clunker

Good morning!

I have a clunker of a car...Eight years ago, we bought it barely used from a friend of my mom's who decided to upgrade to a different type of vehicle.  We got a great deal on it and purchased it with CASH.  However, this make/model has not stood the test of time like many others have.  We know it has developed an issue with the engine that would cost more to fix than the car is now worth.(We were instructed on how to keep it running safely for now but eventually this problem will lead to the car's "death".)  It's tempermental.  Half the time it thinks I'm stealing it and triggers its anti theft device - luckily I figured out the solution to "unsteal" the car pretty quickly.  In an effort to keep it from dying sooner than we have the money to replace it, I drive it only locally on errands.

But, there's an even bigger issue with this car...It's a GAS GUZZLER!  And it's not even a truck or SUV.  I'm lucky if I get about 175 miles per fill up...And, coupled with the gas prices here in CT, I got to thinking this morning as I filled up the car....

I filled up my car for $25.25 total at $249.9/gallon, which is a pretty average price in my neck of the woods. Now, I'm going to really put the effort in to see how long I can make this tank last! I'm already pretty conscientious about combining errands but now I'm upping the stakes.

My goal is for it to last two weeks plus some.

Anyone else "play" this game already?  How much gas do you typically go through in a month?

Have a great Monday!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Meal Plan Monday

Yet another snowy day here..Will Spring ever make a true appearance? lol

In an effort to create less waste and get more organized, I'm attempting to keep on top of my meal plan. Here are this week's dinner offerings...

Today (Monday):  Eye of the Round roast, mashed potatoes, frozen corn, garlic green beans

Tuesday:  Maple Glazed pork chops, roasted yams, roasted asparagus

Wednesday: Chicken Thighs (Need to find a yummy recipe!), rice, honey glazed carrots

Thursday: Left over eye round for roast beef sandwiches, french fries, pickles

Friday: Pierogies sauteed with onions or Macaroni and cheese

Saturday: TBD as we may be out of town for the day

Sunday: Easter Dinner (still working out the particulars but already have the ham, sweet potatoes, and potatoes for mashed)

Lunches here consist mainly of leftovers and sandwiches that Papa takes to work and Guppy 1 eats when she gets home from school.  Guppy 2 typically takes the same thing for lunch everyday - water, string cheese, pretzels/crackers and some sort of fruit.

Standard breakfasts include: assorted cereals, muffins, bagels with butter/cream cheese, croissants, and instant oatmeal.

Off to start the day!  Happy (snowy) Monday everyone!



Sunday, March 29, 2015

I'm Not Oscar the Grouch Here!

As in I do NOT love trash!

Unlike some places in Connecticut, I do not have to pay for trash removal (besides in town taxes of course)..  I don't have to place it in my car, drive it to the appropriated site, have it weighed, and pay for it weekly. But, is that really a good thing?

I began to wonder about that this morning as I took yet another bag out to the barrels in my garage.  Trash pick up isn't until Thursday morning and BOTH barrels are almost completely full!  Granted, I did have the Tween Invasion which created more trash than usual but is that truly a good excuse? Probably not, if I'm being honest.

To my credit, we also have a humongous recycle trash barrel that is stuffed OVER the brim so I'm not a complete ecological disaster

Yet, I think... KNOW my household can do better!  I have to spend some time really thinking about how much WASTE goes on in my family. And, how to fix all the trash that keeps getting generated!  Somehow, I'm positive that if we had to physically shell out cash to dump it, there would be a whole lot less bags piling out there in my garage.

Time to start googling zero waste websites...Any tips on reducing waste?.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Survived the Tween Invasion!

As I mentioned in a previous post, Guppy 2 brought four friends home directly after school for a sleepover.  It's now almost 10:30 the next morning and everyone still seems happy and well fed.  Truthfully, they are all very nice girls and I was glad to have them.  But it ended up being a bit more than a financial cost...

My MS flared up last night and into today due to the heat.  Usually I will keep my home at 65 degrees when we are all home and around 60 when it's just me during the day.  Anything over 65 for an extended period of time makes me feel awful - tingly, tired, and major muscle cramps.  Around five last night, G2 asked me to turn the heat up since three of the four friends were cold. (Her BFF wasn't since she has been coming here forever and is used to it.) So, I had a choice to make.  I decided to keep the girls comfortable and turned the heat to 70 degrees.  Those five degrees more was my breaking point. Quite frankly, I feel like Frosty when he brought Karen into the poinsettia greenhouse!

It's snowing here AGAIN so, if you'll excuse me, I think I will go outside and roll around in the snow to cool down!  lol  

Joking aside, it is well worth the flare up to see G2 and friends have such a great time.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fluffy Friday

Playing along with Mysti over at diggingoutfromourmess@blogspot.com - If you don't follow her blog, seriously go check it out! =)

Fluffy Friday Questions:

1. What was the most expensive errand you ran this week?  
Not sure it counts as an "errand", but definitely the most money I shelled out was on one of our Ebay purchases.  We bought a "gaming style" computer (with planned monies) for 510.  Great investment though. It works perfectly and the person selling it needs to raise money for college this fall.  I call that a win/win.

2. What was the least expensive purchase of the week?
All the free samples I got from the local feed store for my dog!  After tallying it up, it was easily fifty dollars in samples!

3. What did you spend money on this week that was just annoying?
Not sure if I will truly get a bill for this, but I completely forgot about a dentist appointment I had this week.  The office was really angry and is threatening to bill me a fifty dollar charge. Oh, and did I mention I have NEVER EVER missed an appointment there?  Grrrrr..

And the non financial question...

4. How much sleep did you get last night and was it enough?
Last night, the dog woke me up to go to the bathroom at 1:30 am! It took waaaay too long to get back to sleep....Like until 4:00!  So I'm estimating I got about five hours of sleep total? Not nearly enough for me! I've always been an early to bed kind of girl and, since being diagnosed with MS, I find that when I get a full eight to nine hours, I'm at my best.  I guess we will see how I hold up today...Especially with Guppy 2 having those four friends here for a sleepover!

Happy Friday everyone!  Please share your answers below and go ahead and do your own Fluffy Friday on your blogs!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rainy Day Baking

While I am thankful for the fifty degree weather today, it's a cold and rainy day.  To help warm up the house a bit and prepare for the gaggle of girls sleeping over tomorrow night (G2 is having four friends over), I've decided to do some baking.  Devils food cupcakes with a choice of vanilla or chocolate frostings - bought a while back when prices were rock bottom - and some homemade chocolate chip cookies should help with the sweet cravings. I'll be scouring the Big Y ad (since the sale starts today) for any good buys on munchies 
as well.
Hope everyone is having a terrific Thursday!

My Freebies!











Yesterday, I ran out to my very local, as in a one mile walking distance, pet feed store as I was out of bunny supplies.  I struck up a conversation with the owner about how happy I am to have them so close in town. When she asked if I had any other animals, we got to talking about my dog and how she gets ear infections if she eats gluten. Yes, I have a gluten free dog!  lol  Anyway, when she asked what I fed her, I had to admit it was a brand easily found at supermarkets. Honestly I am embarrassed by it and I know, while gluten free, it probably is full of some not so great additives.  Anyway, imagine my shock when she gave me all of the stuff in this picture as FREE samples for my dog!
Yes, I know it may benefit her in the long run if any of these strike my dog's fancy.  However, I didn't have to shell any money out to test these.  And, more importantly, I will happily bring all the business I can back to her.  It's important for our small mom and pop stores to succeed.  I love promoting/frequenting small business because the more success they have, the less unoccupied store fronts in the community!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

When I Faced Up to my Struggle with Credit Cards

I remember the day clearly, four years ago.  I had received my Citibank statement with a little notice also stating that my APR  would be going up from the 5.5% it had been forever to a fluctuating rate of miinimally 14.9%!  What happened? I was always on time and considered a "good" customer - which means I had revolving credit debt and a lot of it.  Well Citibank had just decided to change my terms, along with I'm sure many other customers who had the same card.  My options? Agree to the change or keep the low APR by cancelling my account. This credit card was the ONLY one I had left but it had a whopping almost 37K in charges on it!

Like so many of us out there, my credit card was my crutch.  It was like using a bandaid to stop an arterial bleed. I would pay the minimum due monthly but then charge that back plus some more.  No extravagant vacations, no designer clothes, and no new furniture.  Just every day little things.  Things I didn't plan adequately for.  Car insurance, home heating oil, new clothes for growing children, Christmas, and yeah, even groceries. It enabled me. It was okay I didn't keep a budget or save for long term expenses.  It was okay to live beyond my means - I paid the bills every month right?  It was okay....Until it wasn't anymore.

I took a good hard look at things and decided to try to change. I knew I would never be disciplined enough to pay off the balance monthly or keep it for emergencies.  I pulled a Dave Ramsey and cut the credit card up.  People thought I was nuts. Honestly, I didn't care. My focus changed to wanting the debt gone and to have my family's life more in balance.

It hasn't been an easy road.  I still screw up and make way more financial mistakes than I would like.  I can still be very impulsive and careless.  But, I'm trying. I'm facing up to the mess that I have created. And I'm learning.  That's the best we can all do, right?  Learn from our mistakes and just keep swimming!

When Goodbye is Best

This past February, my little family had a fairly stressful challenge.  Both girls were taking music lessons with the same teacher (very convenient) but both had become very unhappy.  Lessons were being cancelled or being cut short and a lot of excessive chit chat being done by the teacher engaging me- which resulted in wasted lesson time.  But the worst of it was the teacher's demeanor had changed. The little victory cheers were replaced by extremely harsh criticisms.  We tried to get the girls through.  We tried to give the benefit of the doubt, explaining that possibly the stress of an upcoming studio wide concert was getting the best of the teacher, since it was clear that only a few students, if any, were ready to perform.  I think my breaking point came when Guppy 2 came out of her lessons crying that she sucked - which isn't true by other peoples accolades.

What made leaving especially hard was that, looking back, I can see we got schmoozed. The teacher decided to invest a lot of time "befriending" me in the beginning to try to keep the girls enrolled in the studio. Once I was entrenched, the teacher moved on to do the same to the next person, etc, etc.  Honestly I felt bad about the decision but, obviously, the girls happiness and success come first.

Three weeks ago, Guppy 1 started with a new vocal coach.  No schmoozing, just singing, some praise, and constructive criticism when needed. G1 is very happy and motivated again thanks in part to this new teacher.

Last evening, Guppy 2 met with her new teacher for lessons. (He comes to our house which is super convenient for me!)  Though she agreed she wanted to be rid of the first teacher, G2 doesn't handle change well and I was extremely anxious about the transition.  Well, luckily, she loves her new teacher too.  Again, this one (like G1's new vocal coach) is very focused, will give some praise, and will give direction as needed.

The monetary difference in monthly lessons is +20 bucks total.  The value of said lessons has increased ten fold!

Lesson learned for Mama Fish: Don't let yourself be schmoozed!

Has anyone else dealt with anything like this? How did you handle breaking out of a stressful situation for your kids?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Looking ahead with the menus

This morning had me running around locally to finish grabbing stuff for the Guppies Easter baskets. And, I'm relieved to say I'm 95% done! I'm not going to stress about the baskets not being their usual overfilled selves since my guppies are getting larger (more expensive) stuff this year.

As uninspired as I continue to feel on the food/menu plan front, my family still wants to be fed. Imagine that! lol   Right now, I have a huge pan of vegetable roasting in the oven that can be stuffed into pitas with cheese and taken for lunches. I plan on making a batch of pasta salad later today as another grab and go lunch option. I am trying to ease myself into menu planning in the hopes that the more I succeed, the more I will want to continue planning! So, here is the menu plan for the next few days:

Today:     Scallops (for Papa and Guppy 1)
                Lasagna (for me and Guppy 2)
                Large garden salad and bread for us all

Wed:        Roasted chicken
                Roasted sweet potatoes
                Roasted brussel sprouts
                (Yes there's a theme going! If the oven is on, why not make full use of it?)
                 
Thurs:       Chicken fried rice (using l/o roasted chicken)

Friday:      Pizza
           

So, there's the "plan".  Let's hope I can stick with it since it's not too complicated. It's all about the baby steps!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Productive Weekend

After dodging illness for weeks, last night it finally started to hit.  I was down for the count asleep by 8 pm. Today has been a fairly slow moving day as well. Such is life sometimes I guess.

The snowstorm this past weekend dumped about five inches on us but is already melting away. (Thankfully) Sunday had us out and about making some pricey (but scheduled) purchases. Guppy 2 needed a new drum stand and mat, plus wanted to try out some cymbals since hers are in dire need of replacing. Mat and stand was below 100.00. Cymbals are extremely expensive (more than drums!) but we found the one she wanted on Ebay for a pretty amazing price. (That is being held onto for her Easter basket.)  Guppy 1 needed a new "gaming" style computer for the Occulus Rift she purchased with her birthday money.  Since our desktop is woefully obsolete, we began looking for one that could do what she needed as well.  Low and behold, another find on Ebay for half the price of what it would have cost to build one with the correct components ourselves.  Papa Fish contacted the seller (through texting) and found out he/she is trying to raise cash for college in the fall and built the computer from the ground up (computer major).  Best thing was we were assured this computer could handle G1's Occulus perfectly. (Dear G1 is being told not to expect much in her Easter basket this year as this model of computer is being bought specifically for her.) Again, all monies were saved previously and earmarked for these purchases.

Next up, Papa and I need a few additions to our Spring wardrobe. (More him than me) Today a 10.00 Kohl's coupon came in the mail so I will start my shopping there. Hopefully there will be deals to be had!

Around this time of year, I find myself struggling with meal planning even more.  I call this my "recipe rut".  I hate this in between time before the spring is in full swing.  Tonight (since I'm feeling run down on top of uninspired) on the menu is black rice and beans or leftovers from the weekend.  Any suggestions for recipes to hold us over until fresh fruits and vegetables are available locally again?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mother Nature Missed the Memo...

Clearly Mother Nature didn't look at the calendar today...It's supposed to be the first day of Spring yet snow is in the forecast?!? I love New England and even winter...but this year enough is enough! And I was just beginning to be able to see grass in my yard again.  Oh well.

Guppy 2 is in a garage band (she's a drummer) that meets every other Friday for pizza and practice at the teacher's house - about 40 minutes from where I live. Papa Fish takes her and visits his mom who lives close by while G2 is practicing, thus killing two birds with one stone. Due to the impending snow, practice is up in the air. Instead of two people for dinner, me and G1, we may all be home.

Added to that, Guppy 1 is going to hibachi tomorrow night and having friends sleep over.  Even teenage girls require snacks, especially if they plan to stay up all night watching horror movies.

So, off to my two local grocery stores I went this morning before the first snowflakes can even hit the ground.  The two stores located in my town are notoriously expensive.  Our Stop and Shop is the highest priced compared to the surrounding towns but I guess the trade off is it's ten minutes from my house. (There really is no trade off but I'm rationalizing to make myself feel better. Let's go with it. lol) After picking up the few things that were on sale that we needed, I picked up pizza dough and mozzarella cheese in case we are all home tonight for dinner. Pizza dough cost 1.99 and will make at least two pizzas for us and the mozz was on sale 2/$4. (I already had sauce in my pantry.) Besides just being cheaper than take out, it will be faster since pizza places in my town are always super busy on Fridays during Lent.

Our other grocery store is Big Y. Again, high priced unless you cherry pick their loss leaders. Besides my loss leaders items (Big Y butter 1.98/lb? Yes please!), I got three bags of honey wheat pretzels @ $1 each  and 3 12 packs of a variety of Coke products at 3/15 (OUCH!!) for the sleepover. The soda price did NOT make me happy but I plan on squirreling away what's left for the next sleepover. I also have popcorn and the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies if the girls are so inclined.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March Madness!

And I'm not talking basketball either.  The period between January and March are the hardest for my family, financially speaking.  Guppy 1's birthday is in January - essentially right after Christmas - and Papa Fish's birthday follows in February. Added to this, this winter has been the snowiest (I live in New England) on record for many areas which equals higher bills associated with that. Most of the struggle we experience is, of course, due to poor planning on my part. It's not a surprise when birthdays come up - same day year after year.  And I should know to prepare better for the winter.  It just hasn't happened in the past.

Now that I'm catching my breath, I have to devise a plan of action. After doing some internet research and reading my favorite blogs, I'm thinking about utilizing the saving account connected to my checking account to "save" for next winter now. I would have to keep a notebook with a tally of what monies are earmarked for which needs (wood, oil, etc).

Does anyone else do this? What's your best suggestion regarding earmarking money for future annual expenditures?

JUMPING INTO THE WATER!

Hi everyone! I've jumped into the great big ocean of blogs! I'm TrayceeBee (aka Mama Fish). I'm a SAHM to two teenager daughters (Guppy One and Guppy Two) and been married to an amazing man (Papa Fish) for almost twenty years.
I've read quite a few blogs in the past.  The ones I love the most (and continue to read!) are the ones that inspire us to persevere.. Life gets in the way of the best laid plans but it's up to us to decide how we "swim" on through it.
This blog is going to be a little of everything - just like my life!  I'm sure the following topics will be a continual theme moving forward: Frugality/Money Issues, Parenting/Family, Dealing with Long Term Illness (I was diagnosed with MS six years ago), and Meal Planning.
Phew! Glad that's done! First posts are so awkward!  Hope you will join me!