5 Things Friday- COVID 19 Edition

Did you ever think to yourself- why might could happen if you decided to buy a new car on Friday the 13th 2020?    I am so glad I am not the only one and I do have the definitive answer- COVID!

  1.  We decided to go ahead and trade the 2016 Honda CVR that I have been driving in for a 2017 Chevy Equinox on Friday November 13th.   We actually were going to shop on Friday night and planned to purchase on Saturday but we ended up finishing up all the paperwork and driving away in the new to us car around 9pm.
  2. I am going to share the reasons we decided to trade cars just for future reference and so I can prove to myself that we did think this through and not regret the purchase. First- neither Matt nor I really enjoyed driving the Honda CVR, it was not a car that we would have purchased. It was under powered and although the gas mileage was better than the van, not enjoyable to drive. Next- the payment was extremely high. I actually had to split the payment in half in order to make it fit our budget.  After doing the research, I realized that we could likely reduce our payment by trading even with our upside down status. Finally- Matt has been employed at his job for over a year. Which allowed us to improve both of our credit scores at the same time. By trading and placing the new Equinox in Matt’s name, we reduced my debt ratio and improved his rating with consistent payments.  We have accomplished all we set out to do. Car payment is $100 less, Equinox is a car we both enjoy driving and credit will improve in the next six months.
  3. Sunday, the kids arrived home from spending the weekend with Haley and we took them for a drive in the new car. We ended up eating outside at the Salisbury Cracker Barrel. Matt and I had skipped church that morning because he was not feeling well and we did not want to expose any one to our germs. After eating on Sunday, Zach became sick and threw up.  It was a one time thing so I did not worry about it as this can happen.
  4. Monday- Matt says he is staying home from work so I decided to take Zach to school. He does not have a fever at home or at school. I honestly thought he had a case of the “Mondays”.  I dropped him off at school and headed to work where I was schedule to see 3 kids back to back a 30 minute break and another 5 kids back to back.  I get a call from Matt that his boss suggest he go test for Covid, because he is positive and has exposed the whole office all week. I finish the third kid and as I am checking my phone to call Matt back, Zach school is calling he threw up!
  5. Matt did test positive. By Friday (today) his symptoms are very light and he is only taking medicine at night.  We suspect that Zach had food poisoning – I ate some of the spinach dip that he had on Sunday and it was bad. I threw it out after one bite and had a horrible stomach ache.  By Friday, Zach is completely better! I have had what feels like sinus stuff to me. I have not had a fever, but runny nose and wet cough.   Lily has had a sore throat but feels much better today. Kendall ended up with a headache. Everyone is currently on quarantine. We have not left the house since Monday.  We are praying for two specific things- no one else get COVID and we can have a small family Thanksgiving. We have been told that 3-4 days without symptoms can end Matt’s quarantine and if no one else has symptoms especially a fever before then. We should be safe. the health department is suppose to call  on either Thursday or Wednesday to officially release us as well.

September in Review

September was interesting to say the least. I did make one huge adjustment this month. We are now using budgets more strictly and I have being very diligent about extra money. My goal is to save the $896 for our remaining Disney tickets in December from extra money or from saving money. This means that I also much cover any overages.  So far we have $200 toward our goal.

Gardening- We ended up digging up the sweet potatoes this week and probably have around 25 pounds which should last us through the winter. We are still getting a few tomatoes and green peppers. Pimentos are still producing strongly. I am planning to start some lettuce and celery to see if we can supplement some food for the winter.

Goal #1 Grocery Budget of $550- The total for the month is $501.  I did also make a huge grocery trip to Costco this week but will move that $450 out of the October budget.  We are completely stocked up and I anticipate both November and December being lower spend months in order to bring down our yearly total and monthly average

Goal #2 – Record and keep up with gas/ auto purchase- $642.18  We had to replace the windshield in the van a second time this year, which pushed out monthly total way up.  I am going to anticipate around $300 for gas in the month of October.

Goal #3-Use a cash envelope system for everything possible!. This is a struggle but has become even more important as we attempt to save ticket money.  We managed 6 no spend days this month. I am going to plan on 10 next month as our needs should be much less!

Goal #4- Blogging- 15 post per month. This is post number 15 for the month! This is thanks to Disney pictures!

Goal # 5- Fitness- Goal is to walk 3 times a week. ummm no comment

Goal #6 – Bible study- Goal- 3x a week –Yikes!

Goal #7-Attempt at least 52 new recipes this year.-  We have met this goal! I am very happy and plan to just focus on what we know for October.

Earnings_ $50. Swagbucks are really really limiting our earning so I don’t anticipate this to improve significantly before the end of the year.

October is a long month with no real breaks. I am ready so bring it on!

June in Review

June is definitely my favorite month of the year! The weather is hot and we get to spend lots of time in the pool because Summer break begins. Things are slowly starting to return to more normal. The pool is open, we are attending church and baseball is happening. We also look at our budget and make any adjustments or changes that are needed. This year that was a very positive thing as we were able to move money from braces to other areas. After the kids summer camp was cancelled and I was able to score free for now airline tickets for our Disney trips, we decided to spend a week in July at the beach! After some research, we were even able to get a condo on the oceanfront for a week for $1900! I am so looking forward to some beach time!

Gardening- continues to be a challenge this month. The weather is simply not cooperating. We have been able to harvest lots of snap peas, one cucumber , a batch of green beans, strawberries, squash and zucchini. Currently we are eating just about everything we are harvesting. Squash bugs have attacked and we have lost several plants. I am hopefully for the tomatoes to start this week, I have picked two but both were rotten. Cucumbers are blooming so we continue to hope! The kids are most excited because they spotted 2 growing watermelons when mowing yesterday.

Goal #1 Grocery Budget of $550- The total for the month is $640.36. After looking back, I realized that I have not been able to maintain this budget at all this year. I have been over every single month. My grocery average is $722 a month YIKES! I am not going to increase the budget yet but this will be something I closely monitor for the rest of the year. We have been purchasing alot of meat and prior to COVID, we had decreased our stockpile significantly. Currently I am comfortable with our stockpile and don’t have any gapping holes. I am thinking that our expenses may decrease in this area and if so that will help me to determine exactly where we need to be in this area. For July, I do not plan to actually spend any time in the grocery stores except to grab things we need for our beach trip. I most likely will do a huge trip the last week of July in preparation for returning to school in August.

Goal #2 – Record and keep up with gas/ auto purchase- $186.13 the total for the month. This is the lowest spending on gas in a very very very long time. The price of gas is starting to rise and we are planning to travel this month. One of the benefits of having a significant decrease in our gas budget during the three of the last 6 months is that we are able to pay off debit. We are currently using a credit card for all gas purchases. Any additional money have been used to reduce the balance of this card. I am projecting that by the end of the year we should have this card completely paid off and will be transferring any excess after groceries to reduce another card. In July, I need to put tags on the van. I expect we should still be under $500 budget for the month of July.

Goal #3-Use a cash envelope system for everything possible. Success! This may become a little more difficulty in the next 2-4 months as the Untied States is currently experiencing a cash shortage. I do have several options so we may do a hybrid system. No spend days are 5 this month YAY! My goal for July is 5 days as well.

Goal #4- Blogging- 15 post per month. This is post number 15 for the month! I am becoming more consistent!

Goal # 5- Fitness- Goal is to walk 3 times a week. I managed to walk 7 days this month! It is not the goal but a significant improvement over last month!

Goal #6 – Bible study- Goal- 3x a week –Not there at all!

Goal #7-Attempt at least 52 new recipes this year.-  We have tried 40 new recipes this year! I am planning to finish out the remaining 12 over the summer but time will tell.

Earnings_ $30. This is probably the lowest earning month in a long long time. The economy is not great and I suspect this may be the beginning of the end for swagbucks. Matt did not even earn a single card this month so at least we should double this amount next month! But free money is free money!

July appears to be a busy but fun month. We have swim team, baseball, our beach trip and baseball camp! Because of COVID-19. I will be returning to work the second week of August so July is really our last summer I plan to enjoy!

Tuesday Money Thoughts

We are approaching the end of May! Typically, this is a stressful time of year around our house. We are trying to coordinate multiple activities and plans for the summer. This year it is not quite as stressful but lots of changes on the horizon as well. I wanted to share some financial information with you both past present and future.

Let me start by saying that we are on the most financial stable ground that we have been on in many years.

Matt is currently employed full-time and really enjoying his job. I am actually employed full-time and working a second job as well. We have been very blessed as COVID-19 had only a small financial impact on our jobs. My second job in Guam was closed entirely for the 3 weeks in March and first half of April. I have been able to resume on a limited basis for May and will have very limited work in June. I do receive reduced pay in April and May. The school system pays on a ten month system, therefore in the months of April and May a double portion of insurance is taken to cover the summer months. I am very fortunate to have a bank that is set up for state school system employees. I have a set amount automatically deducted during the 10 months I receive a regular check and it is place in a summer savings account. In June and July, on the same day as my regular checks the amount equal to my regular pay is moved over to my checking account. This makes budgeting so much easier and I really feel like I get twelve months of pay. We have always lived on a budget. The difference these days is that we have enough income to cover our expenses. We set our budget in January and each month I can arrange money and use as we see needed. We have currently paid off several of our debits and continue to make larger than the minimum payments on all of our credit cards. We are not totally out of debit but we feel like we can enjoy life and still work our way out of debit. We are not going to live rice and beans but we are definitely no overspending.

We did receive a government stimulus check. We had already begun a much needed home repair of replacing our kitchen and dinning room floor at the time that things closed. Our intention was to use the money from my Guam job to cover this expense. We decided to use the stimulus money to cover this expense instead and we also chose to redo our master bathroom. I am happy to say that both projects are complete and they are awesome!

My initial plan in January was to reduce our panty and freezers until June. I wanted to use up alot of stuff and then spend the summer re-stocking them, However this changed as we started to see shortages and limits placed on lots of items especially meat. In March, we doubled our grocery budget spending $1025. In April we spent $922 which included $180 in chicken. In May we have spent $542 which includes around $250 in meat purchased locally. I am being very deliberate in our grocery purchases. I want to maintain a stockpile but also continue to use the stockpile. My goal for the summer months of June and July is to reduce the grocery spending to less than $250 each month and save at least $250 for future purchase. However I am realistic and know that I may exceed this depending on food prices and our specific needs. For example, on my shopping trip today, I found Suddenly Salads on sale for $1 a box. I decided to go ahead and purchase 20 boxes as this is one of our summer favorites. This price is also $1.35 less than the lowest price I have seen lately. On a really bright note, I have already stocked our freezer with lots of convenient easy to prepare meals for the fall. My plan/goal is continue to prepare double batches of items we really like so that in the fall we can simply throw food in the crockpot or oven and enjoy a quick good meal. Our pantry is also nicely stocked. The garden should start producing in the next 3 weeks so I want to be able to use and not lose any food.

We are not planning a summer vacation, instead we have 3 trips planned to Disney World! This was a choice that the kids all made around Christmas last year. We will be attending both the Christmas and Halloween Parties in addition to a long two week trip over Spring Break next year! Currently, our trip in August for the Halloween party is completely paid for! We are hoping to use points and vouchers to cover the flights for our December Trip and anticipate paying it off in October!

I have been selling items on Ebay and we are also anticipating a large yard sale in the next several weeks depending on the weather. All proceeds go to Disney trips!

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Kendall is finally almost done with cleaning out her room. She was able to reduce the amount of clothing down to the point of everything fitting in her closet!!! This allowed her to move a huge dresser out of her room! Lily decided to take the larger dresser and was able to empty out not only her smaller dresser but also a bigger standing shelf. Lily does want to replace the shelf with a mirror and three shelves but we shall see. I moved the standing shelf to my room and laid it on it side under my jewelry box. This is currently a place to keep all of Braxton’s toys, clothes and diapers! Finally Zach did not want to be outdone so he exchanged 3 small dressers for one from Lily’s room. I am pleased with the extra space that everyone was able to find and we have moved at least five garbage bags of clothing to the building for a future yard sale or something.

I have been able to sell between ebay and Facebook market place 4 American girl dolls and a ton (50) build a bear outfits. We used this money to cover our tickets to the Disney Halloween party in August.

Our August Disney trip is completely paid for including air fare. The only item left to purchase is a gift card to cover food on the trip. Matt receives 3 paychecks in July so we plan to use the extra check to purchase a gift card to use on the trip! Next, we are going to work on paying for our December trip! At this point, we will have the plane tickets covered between credit card miles and airline vouchers.

I will be working in Guam through the end of June due to the school closure. My goal is to take the entire month of July off of work and resume both Davie County and Guam in August! I am so ready for a normal schedule!

I am focusing on controlling the grocery budget this month to under $550. So far we have been way over budget each month!

Matt and I have decided to tackle our master bedroom sink area. We are going to repaint the walls, change out the cabinet and sink for a double sink vanity! I am hoping we are able to complete this project in two weekends but it may take a little longer.

I am starting to quickly lose hope in our garden this year. The weather has not cooperated at all. We should be having warm spring/summer like days but for the past 2 weeks the temperatures have been stuck in the 60’s. I have covered everything I could on the couple of nights of freezing but things are just not growing well. In addition, we are having to water every other day. We have had little to no rain since mid April. I was so hopeful for the garden especially using all the seed packets but now if we harvest one each from our vegetables that will be the break even point!

April in Review

April was not as long as March. I think we are finally settling down into a manageable routine. Matt worked from home the first two weeks of April but has returned to working at his office full time. I am working full-time at home. I am planning to continue through the month of May. I may need to return to work during our school work days in June but I will wait to see what is decided between now and then. School building have officially been closed for the year in both North Carolina and Guam. Lily will not have to take final exams but otherwise she is still completing her charter school. I am getting some limited work in Guam, a lot of IEP for the next couple of weeks. I am hopefully to complete 10 hours of work for April and another 10 for May before the school year ends. We did receive our government stimulus money this month. It was used to pay for the floor in the kitchen and dinning room which I originally budget with Guam money. The rest was applied to debit but every little bit helps!

The garden has taken up a considerable amount of time this month. We are very hopeful that it will produce some inexpensive veggies most of the summer. I have planted the majority of item from seeds this year. Seeds were purchased at twenty-five cent or less a pack. I made a trip to a local nursey and purchased both pepper and tomato plants spending $11 total. So far we are harvesting “volunteer lettuce” each week. I still have some cherry tomatoes to transfer and I am planning to plant green beans every two weeks so that we can get a more continual and plentiful harvest. I still need to purchase and plant sweet potatoes but I am going to assume that will be the last of expenses this year. We have already built an additional strawberry box so I will have to end up buying dirt to fill it this fall.

Goal #1 Grocery Budget of $550- We have exceed it again this month but $190 worth of chicken breast makes this a no brainer. But on the bright side it is still less than we spent last month! Currently we have spent $922 which also includes a stock up on Diet cokes. I think we should also note that April is a 5 week month which threw me off as well. I am hearing lots of reports of increase pricing for groceries and a possible meat shortage as well. I am planning to stock up on beef and maybe pork next week. I expect the grocery budget for May may be high as well for that reason. The good news is that we should be able to dramatically cut our grocery spending during the summer because of stocking up now. I will continue to watch prices and re-stock items as needed. I actually have started a price list on my phone to begin checking items as I am out picking up other things during the next several weeks.

Goal #2 – Record and keep up with gas/ auto purchase- We spent $$450 this month in gas! This does include the windshield purchase. We decided to wait until May for the taxes and tags on the car.

Goal #3-Use a cash envelope system for everything possible. Success! No spend days are 9 this month. This is better than March but still not my goal of 15. I am not sure what the goal will be for May. Spending will increase as we travel to the pool and as restrictions are lifted. May 10 days of no spending….. or should I just count the days?

Goal #4- Blogging- 15 post per month. This is post number 18 for the month! Which is an increase of 1 for the month! Go Covid-19!

Goal # 5- Fitness- Goal is to walk 3 times a week. I have met this goal this month. The kids are really good at reminding us that we all need the fresh air and exercise. We actually walked 12 days this month! I should be able to continue this especially if the pool opens in May.

Goal #6 – Bible study- Goal- 3x a week – Getting better but still not achieved.

Goal #7-Attempt at least 52 new recipes this year.-  For the first time ever we are ahead of a goal. We have tried 22 new recipes so far this year. We need to try 30 more. I am actually thinking we can meet and exceed this goal. The one down side is that only a handful will be used again.

Earnings_ $75 in gift cards. I did complete one large payout on Swagbucks. Matt completed another survey outside of Swagbucks and should receive another $50 gift card in a few days for Amazon. I will be surprised if this amount increase in May as people are overwhelming the system.

Except for the grocery budget, we did extremely well in the month of April. We are blessed and continue to thank God for his provisions!

Tuesday Thoughts

Technically I am enjoying the final two days of my spring break. I am very thankful to say that I have been able to catch up on the majority of things that I have fallen behind on during the month of February due to illness. We have to finish installing a couple of pieces of trim work and the kitchen/dinning room will be completed. This was a major goal prior to the summer. I am planning to get outside this morning and get some planting accomplished including starting several things outside and I also plan to start some seed trays inside as well. Tomorrow, Wednesday is actually a pay day for Matt. I am going to plan to spend the morning, working on our budget and paying bills. I also need to get a trip to Costco to purchase several things accomplished. I am hoping that Wednesday afternoon is much less crowded than a Saturday but I can not be sure.

The governor announced yesterday that schools in North Carolina will remain closed until May 15th. I am not sure what this will look like for us. Because I work in a different school district than the kids attend, things are getting a little hairy. I will admit that I have been a little snotty about things and really did not want to return to work. But in reality, I am very fortunate to be able to continue to work. The kids are currently able to all three complete school work via the internet. They will all three have a week of Spring Break during April which will cause a bit of complication. I will have Friday and Monday of that week off as well. We are just going to have to set the expectation that they complete their school work and remain civil to each other while Matt and I work. A huge plus is that currently our school district is providing a lunch meal delivery service. The kids will be able to have a lunch provided daily without the need to cook for the entire time they are out of school. I may be able to work from home on certain days but this is so new and different that no one is sure.

On the financial front, with both Matt and I continuing to work we will not see much impact. I will loose at least a month of my income from Guam as school are closed there as well. I am hopeful that once schools reopen there I will be able to schedule and make up for missed time. I have started looking at refinancing our mortgage to get a better interest rate. Otherwise, the only huge expense for us during the next several months is purchasing meat. I am going to start placing money in saving but wait until prices return to a more normal level before attempting to make a huge purchase.

I have been able to enjoy Braxton for serval days during this break. By allowing him to stay with us, his mother is saving the cost of daycare. I am hopeful to be a lot more helpful this summer in this area.

  1. I am changing the way that I am storing left-overs. I am planning to start storing individual meals instead of putting all into one big container. I have several reasons for this. First, it will make heating up lunch either at work or home much easier for me. Second, it should also make heating up a meal much easier for the kids as well. I am hoping that it will also encourage everyone to grab and use up the items in the fridge.
  2. My plan for today is to spend a significant amount of time outside. The temperature is suppose to be close to 80 today. I need to get some massive weeding done in both the flower beds and also in the square foot garden. My next goal is to determine what seeds I can go ahead and start inside so that I can have a jump start on my gardening for the year. I am not sure how this will all work with school schedule changes due to the cornovirsus but I at least have a plan.
  3. I have 3 new recipes that I am planning to try this weekend. If I am able to get all three done, I will at least be caught up on my new recipe challenge.
  4. This weekend we need to finish the trim work in the hall, install thresholds and adjust one custom cabinet to fit the new floor. I have order new curtains for the pantry and will need to make alternation for them fit.
  5. I am very hopeful that I will have less stress over the next month once it is decide how schools will proceed from here. I don’t mind working and I don’t mind being at home but I strongly dislike the uncertainty.

Disney Plans

I have not had the opportunity to blog about our very big adventure as a family of five this year.  As you can probably tell, we as a family love Disney. We were fortunate enough in the past to make a trip every 18 months to 2 years. However we have not been to Disney World since 2017, almost three full years.  Matt andI had some conversations and then present an idea to Lily, Kendall and Zach. They were immediately on board. Today, I am going to share with you the plan and the process. 

The plan!!! Instead of birthday parties, large Easter baskets and a huge Christmas celebration, we are planning 3 separate and unique trips to Disney World over the next year. The kids also suggested that we not do our annual beach trip in order to use that money toward Disney as well.

In August, we will fly in on a Saturday, spend Saturday evening in a park, probably Hollywood Studios, Spend all day Sunday at Magic Kingdom and enjoy breakfast at Ohana’s with Stitch on Monday morning before flying home.  We are planning to use a gift card to purchase food on this trip with only one character meal. Originally, we had wanted to attend a Halloween party during this trip but I was able to book flights at a very low rate prior to the Halloween party dates so we thought just make the best of it. It is always fun at Disney!

In December, we will again fly out on a Saturday. This trip should include the Christmas party, Christmas around the World via Epcot and the Christmas tree trail at Disney springs and at least one additional fun day at a park.  We are planning to return on Wednesday but I have not booked flights yet in order to make sure we get to attend a Christmas party.   We have purchased the Dinning plan that includes two meals per day. So I am sure we will have at least 4 character meal if not more!

Our final and biggest trip will be in April 2021. We are going to drive to Disney on Thursday and spend 10 days enjoying all that Disney has to offer. We are considering a split stay which would mean 2 seperate hotels. We are also looking at which dinning plan will be the most beneficial to us.  

The process- 

Currently, we have purchased and paid for airline tickets, hotel and tickets for the kids in August. Matt and I are considering annual passes so this will be purchased separately.   A gift card with $780 will be purchased with Matt’s third paycheck in July. This is the amount that the  Disney Dinning Plan would cost. I am anxious to see if we have any money left. This will include $210 for our meal at Ohana’s. If we have any left from this gift card it will be used to help pay for the December trip or will be used in April for the food or sounievers. 

We have paid the deposit for our December trip. Birthday money and Christmas money will be used to pay for this trip along with extra work for me in Guam. The goal is to use airline miles to cover our flights as well. 

April Trip-  We are currently working on selling items that are no longer being used in our house.  The goal is to also have a yard sale in May that will cover the deposit and also apply any remaining amount to this balance. We will be using our Tax return for this trip as well. Matt’s third check in December will also be directed to this trip. 

We are all so excited. We currently have two separate count downs going on. One for the August trip and a second for the April trip.  Stay tuned and help use on the journey!  

February In Review

I feel like I have been sick the entire month of February. The first week was cold/cough, the second week was a sinus infection, third week was the stomach bug that I fortunately only had a mild version when compared to the kids. This week I am starting with a cold/cough again and Matt has pink eye.  I did make the decision earlier in the month to begin on Elderberry gummies. This week I have added in Vitamin C and D. I am so tired of being sick and to get this stuff kicked to the curb.   

Goal #1 Grocery Budget of $550- This was a close one at $584 for the month. This is way over budget but I really tired to buy things we needed. I am hopefully to significantly reduce the amount for March and work on a pantry/ freezer clean out in order to prepare for the purchase of a cow. 

Goal #2 – Record and keep up with gas/ auto purchase- We spent $293 Which included the unexpected trip to West Virginia. I am excited because the extra in the budget went straight to reducing our credit card debit!  I don’t anticipate spending more in March! These are huge gains for use! 

Goal #3-Use a cash envelope system for everything possible. Success! It has been nice having money set aside for all the little expenses like hair and nails. I was even able to get a manicure and pedicure during February.  

Goal #4- Blogging- 15 post per month. 0nly 9 post  for the month. This is mainly due to how sick and horrible I have been feeling in the month of February. 

Goal # 5- Fitness- Goal is to walk 3 times a week. This was a horrible fail but my watch did tell me that I walked over 50 miles in February which is an average of 1.67 miles a day. 

Goal #6 – Bible study- Goal- 3x a week – A fail. Definitely need to up my game in this area. 

Goal #7-Attempt at least 52 new recipes this year.-  I tried three new recipes in the month of February but none were a roaring success or even good enough for a repeat.

Earnings_ $60 in gift cards and $15ECB from a survey.

In March, Lily has her play and practice for the play every day until then. All three kids have a piano recital and Zach’s baseball schedule should begin.  I am also going to increase my hours at my second job in Guam until I can get caught up with all the paperwork. My goal is to spend an additional two hours a night on paperwork and other activities until I get things caught up and under control.  Wish us luck!