Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bucket List v.2012

I started keeping an actual bucket list instead of just randomly saying, "that's on my bucket list" this past year and it's been fun to look back over 2011 and see what I accomplished off the list and adding a few new things to it.

Things that are coming off the list, because I accomplished them:

1. I ran a 5K
2. I met my dad this summer, and we just spent Christmas together
3. I joined a lunchtime mentoring program through my work

The new and improved bucket list, v.2012:

1. Sing in a choir
2. Read the entire Bible
3. Go on a missions trip
4. Open a B&B
5. Visit Ireland
6. Go on a cruise
7. Give my Christian testimony
8. Finish a master's degree
9. Go in a hot air balloon
10. Take my kids to Disney
11. Be completely debt free
12. Learn to ski
13. Be in a movie
14. Visit South America
15. Visit Europe
16. Visit Asia
17. Visit Australia
18. Visit a National Park
19. Visit Mt. Rushmore
20. Go to Vegas
21. Blog my life story for my kids
22. Feed the hungry
23. Go to an NFL football game
24. Stay at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island
25. Visit Niagra Falls
26. Attend a church service at Saddleback Church
27. Run a 10K
28. Run 365 miles in a year (or more!)

Friday, November 25, 2011

November 25 - Cleanin House!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday! But what comes after Thanksgiving? Well this year, even sooner than usual, came the shopping! I can't say I was thrilled that the sales were starting at 10pm, but I made my list and headed out to tackle a few things and mission was accomplished.

Today I was working around the house and the yard a bit and decided when I went to put away some new purchases in Nate's dresser drawer that I was tired of all the chaos I was up against. I've mentioned before that I have been known to "UpCycle" things, so I thought a bit about what I could use around the house to bring some order.

Yes, I still had some old baby wipe containers stashed away that I just couldn't bring myself to part with and I used 2 of them to organize the every growing pile of Scout gear that lives in Nate's top drawer. One tub has neckkerchiefs in it, one has slides, and then I put his hat in the front. Nothing fancy, but it rounded up a lot of stray crap that was making me irritated everytime I had to put clothes away.

What else did we do post-Turkey Day? Nate had a friend come over and we took a break from organizing dressers and cleaning the basement to go to the park. The weather was amazing! I dragged the bikes up from the basement and we hit the road. We were not the only ones thinking of it because as we were there tons of families made their way up there too.

There are still plenty of leaves on the ground, and still lots of crap in the basement, but those can wait for a dreary day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nov 23 - Holiday Shopping

I am slowly starting to chip away at Christmas, one lunch hour at a time. It's so much easier to get my Christmas shopping done this way than having the pressure of going out once or twice and feeling like I have to get it all done in that tiny window of time. This gives me more time to spread it around, and also more time to shop around and find what I have in mind for people.

Right now my life is being ruled by a single little notepad that is tucked into my purse. What it is critical on that notepad that I would be lost without it?

The front page: List of what I wanted to get accomplished this week. Random things I needed from an assortment of stores, random Christmas gifts I wanted to get picked up this week. Movie times for Thanksgiving day to take the kids to go see the Muppets, stuff like that.

Store Pages for Black Friday: I hit up to find all the ads early and start my planning ahead of time. I wanted to make sure I was looking them over carefully and not missing anything and that I had a good plan well in advance. Since Walmart is price matching this year on pretty much everything, I will be spending most of my time there instead of just going store to store for 1 or 2 things.

Holiday Schedule: Matt and I had to coordinate our work schedules, our day off schedules, the kids school schedules, and our family holiday schedules to figure out where we are going to be pretty much every day between December 19 and January 2.

Our plans are to spend a couple of days in the Detroit area visiting my family over Christmas, so I did a quick check to see what that was going to set us back and was very happy to see I had quite a few points saved up towards rooms at the Holiday Inn. For 2 days during the holidays we're only going to pay $80 for our room, so I thought that was pretty reasonable. I booked the rooms today and even had a hard time finding hotel rooms that were open! So clearly I am not the only person thinking ahead.

As I am writing this post and looking down at my notepad, I have to laugh a little about the big sales I am so excited about. Who else but a frugal nut would get so excited about the great prices on socks and underwear?!?! Even better, cereal on sale!! Woohoooo!! Somebody at Meijer is thinking of me!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and Matt has to work, so we'll be having the family dinner a little later than usual. The kids won't really notice a difference, but the rest of the family will. We'll do a lot of the dinner prep tonight so that it's a relatively smooth meal tomorrow. If we can get our butts up and moving early, I'm thinking a trip to the theater in Plainwell is in order! We can go see a first run movie (The Muppets) for $2.50 each if we get there before noon.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grocery Trip - Nov 20

A friend of mine mentioned to me on Facebook the other day that I had a blog. Yeah, welllllll, about that. I admit, life has gotten super busy and I have terribly neglected this poor blog for quite some time. There was just so much more to blog about when we were attacking our debt on a daily basis, and we had so much more of it to tackle. Now that we are down to just my student loans, it's really not as exciting as it used to be.

So I thought I would challenge myself to really blog about my grocery trips and how a non-extreme couponer uses coupons to buy things for the family that isn't just boxes of Pizza Rolls and chicken nuggets. Don't worry, you will in fact see nuggets and Pizza Rolls as I continue doing this, we certainly aren't perfect eaters! But the one thing I hear from people all the time is, "I never see coupons for stuff we eat (or use)", so I am going to attempt to show that you can in fact feed your family on a limited budget and eat a good variety of food. Maybe if I am super motivated, I'll even post a few of our meals to show what we turn all these savings into.

Spent: $21.89
Saved: $25.27
What I bought: a turkey, fruit leather (6), dinner rolls (3doz), eggs (3doz), pineapple (2 cans), french friend onions, chips (2 bags)

Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: PB&J, pudding, and banana bread
Dinner: We ate out tonight

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Frugal Fitness

I realized about a year ago that I needed to start exercising more and taking better care of myself. There were a couple of issues with getting started on that, most of them geographic. We sort of live out in the sticks, so finding a fitness option that worked with my work schedule and that didn't break the bank ($$$) was definitely a challenge.

So I did something I never ever thought I would do - I started running. Well not really running at first, more like a very brisk walk that knocked the wind out of me. I very loosely followed the Couch to 5K program and it took me way longer than 9 weeks, but I am very proud to say, I can actually run an entire 5K now! Yes, that's me and my kiddos over there in the picture before the west Michigan Race for the Cure.

Running was a pretty easy way to get myself exercising with minimal start up cost. The basics:

1. Legs/feet
2. Running shoes
3. Music

I am always looking for a good deal on New Balance shoes, and a few months prior to starting C25K, I picked up a very cute pair of pink and gray shoes. When I decided to start running I looked and it turns out that the shoes I bought were specifically made for running! So no extra expense to worry about, shoes were on hand and they were in excellent condition.

I already own an iPod Touch, so it was just a matter of hunting around online a bit and finding some free podcasts to get started with. I thankfully found quite a few and was able to use those to help me get my timing straightened up. No real expense to get started there.

Now that I've been running for almost a year, I've picked up some things here and there that aren't necessary, but definitely make for a nicer experience. Things like wicking t-shirts, skull candy ear buds, and an armband holder for my iPod. I always check out the clearance racks when I hit the stores and see if I can't find some good exercise clothes while I am there and slowly I've added a few things into the mix besides cotton shorts and t-shirts.

I wish I could say I've lost all kinds of weight running, but I can't. I can say though that I've improved my fitness level tremendously over that time and I've forced myself to take better care of me. When I started out, running for 90 seconds was a challenge and I could hardly do that without gasping for breath. I hit a major wall when i worked myself up to a 5 minute running window and went to see my primary doctor. She ran a few tests, gave me an inhaler and suggested that it could be exercise induced asthma, or it very well could be I was just that out of shape and needed to keep at it. Turns out she was right, I really just needed to keep going and the inhaler did nothing to help me.

My previous primary doctor never sent over my blood work from the year prior, so I can't really compare before and after, but i know the after from just early this fall and I am very pleased! From cholesterol to glucose, everything is looking pretty darn good. The only problem area I have is my iron levels and I am focused now on boosting those through 3 times/day supplements.

Now that the fall is here, it's my goal to still keep at the running and to continue straight through winter as the weather allows.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

An Update

It seems like we've been working at this debt free stuff forever, seriously! It didn't take a short amount of time to get ourselves in trouble, so it only makes sense that it's taking some time to get out of trouble.

Good news, the only outstanding debt we have is student loan debt, a total of $8648.12. Not bad considering we started out over $40,000 in debt right?!? We've had a lot come our way since we embarked on this and we've weathered the storms for sure. I know that Dave wouldn't exactly be proud of the fact I am sitting on my brand new couch right now typing this, but he would be proud of the deal I got and that I paid cash for my new couch and love seat!

We had a great summer and fall is looking like it's filling up fast too! So what does a family of 5 do on a cash flow only budget vowing never to charge a penny to have fun? Here's what we do:

1. Cold Memorial Day at Gun Lake
2. Day at Charlton Park
3. Middlville Green Days
4. Swimming in Gun Lake (lots of it!!!)
5. Hawk Island Park in Lansing
6. Run the Riverbank Run
7. Wayland Main Street Days
8. PAWS Open House
9. Cousins came to visit!
10. Gun Lake fireworks
11. Dorr 4th of July Parade
12. Michigan Adventure
13. Miranda Park Party
14. Went wild berry picking
15. Visit Detroit to meet dad
16. Vacation Bible School
17. Nate went to Lake Ann
18. Family reunion at Gun Lake
19. Home Depot Workshop
20. Boys went to Camp Manitou Lin
21. Casino family picnic
22. Orangeville Days
23. Camping at Jellystone& Silver Lake Sand Dunes
24. Sand Lot movie
25. Overnight at the White Caps

We had a great summer, and the best part was the time I spent with my kids. I can't wait for next summer!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On the Agenda

It's a bit of a down time for us right now, but we are getting ready to head into the fun full swing! I am so excited for our summer :)

We've been keeping plenty busy with trips to the Yankee Springs State Park and the Allegan County Park. Who needs swimming lessons when you have a couple of inflatable rings and you can chant "motor boat, motor boat" a thousand times? Lauren and Nick are getting so brave in the water and are starting to get the hand/foot synchronization down. I am betting that they'll be all out swimming by the end of summer. It's so much easier to teach kids to swim when it's a zero depth entry (aka BEACH) instead of just jumping in and suddenly the water is 3ft deep.

We've come up against some challenges since Memorial Day, specifically the transmission on our van went AGAIN. Thank goodness for family! Matt's uncle Larry towed the van from his house to Detroit where my brother fixed it. That alone saved us well over $1500! Not to mention a friend of mine from work graciously drove me to/from work for many, many days and we were able to survive with one vehicle. It's been a challenge, but we've come through it!

I was looking at our calendar today and getting an idea of what's to come, and so far we've got the following on our summer agenda:

1. Saturday, June 25: Wayland Main Street Celebration and PAWS Open House. Lots of free family fun! We'll be busy all day with activities and food, and we might stay that night for the free family movie (How to Train Your Dragon).

2. Sunday, July 3: Gun Lake Fireworks! So excited! We usually have a BBQ that day with Matt's family and then head out in the evening to watch fireworks.

3. Wednesday, July 6: Here we come, We get a small discount because our health insurance is Blue Cross, and we'll pack a lunch and spend the day there. It's close enough to be a day trip, so no hotel costs to deal with. We'll pack up the cooler and eat on the cheap instead of eating in the park. The kids are already talking about how many hours they want to spend in the water park and how many on rides. Oh yeah, it's my birthday that day too :)

4. July 11-15: Vacation Bible School at church. We had so much fun this year that we got this on the calendar MONTHS ago. I hope to be assigned the kindergarten group again so that I can be with Nick and Lauren. Rumor has it a couple of Nick's friends will be there, so that will be a great time for him!

5. July 23: The annual Ward Family Birthday Bash! We had a party last year for Nick and it was just so awesome that we're thinking it needs to be an annual event! We pulled a bunch of picnic tables at the Allegan County Park and grill hot dogs, have cupcakes and just enjoy the day. Thinking that a pinata this year might be necessary, but otherwise we just bring the chairs and relax! Let the kids swim, let the adults fish, and just enjoy each other in that laid back kinda way.

6. July 25-July 30: Nate is headed off to Lake Ann camp through church. They had a special rate if you registered early and if you were a certain age, and Nate just happened to meet the criteria! I am so excited for him to have this time to explore his relationship with Jesus and grow his faith with his friends.

7. August 8-August 12: Nate and Nick head off to daycamp at Camp Maintou Lin! We registered early and took advantage a lot of things to make this happen. I know that they are both going to have a great week. It will be Nick's first camp experience (kindercamp) and Nate's first time at watersports camp.

8. August 22-August 25: We'll be (tent) camping at Jellystone Camp Ground in Silver, Lake MI. Aside from all the fun at the camp to be had, we'll be visiting the Silver Lake State Park and the sand dunes (of course).

9. August 26: Scout overnight camp out at the West Michigan White Caps. Yes, it's minor league baseball, but it's so much fun for the kids! They get to camp out on the field and watch a video on the scoreboard.

Here's to another GREAT summer!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

We LOVE Summer!

How much do the Ward's love summer? Let me count the ways!

1. Free admission to the Allegan County Park. That's FREE beach access and a nice little playground for the kids. We've already gone once, and it's only the first of many, many trips I am quite sure.

2. You can add the yearly admission for the Michigan State Parks to the renewal of license plates for only $10/year! What an amazing deal! We haven't gone yet, but we will be spending a lot of high quality time at the Yankee Springs State Park, which is practically in our back yard, but who knows where else we might end up with a sticker!

Summer is always such a fun time for us. Our weekends fill up fast and it's so fun! We'll be spending a lot of time at family reunions, picnics, hanging out at the county park, scouting events, and then we want to do a few (frugal!) things as a family like Michigan Adventure and some camping. The 2 boys are registered for a week of daycamp at Camp Manitou Lin, Nate will be spending a week at Lake Ann Camp with church, and of course all kids will be going to Vacation Bible School.

School isn't even out yet and we've spent this whole weekend in our swimsuits, this is a GOOD SIGN!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Keepin Busy

My wonderful husband started working full time again January 2011. It's been a long time coming and we are THRILLED to see full paychecks again. Hoorray!!! When he was hired on, he was hired for day shift, and then through a whole lot of HR drama, ended up being assigned to a third shift position. This has been quite the adjustment for our family! To add to the fun, he has his days (nights?) off during the week, so that means that he needs to SLEEP during the day on the weekend. No easy task when you have 3 very active children at home.

We have been filling our weekends with tons of fun activities, activities that are either free or very inexpensive for us to do.

So what have we done? A quick glance at my calendar shows:

  • Saturday movies. There is a theater nearby where we can see first run movies in the morning very cheap. For the 4 of us to go and get popcorn and drinks it's only $15. There was also a free family movie festival of second run movies that we went to quite a few of. the kids loved it!

  • Scout field trip to the TV station

  • Camp Open Houses. The YMCA camp near us has held monthly open houses to recruit families for camp this summer. We knew we were going to register Nick and Nate for a week of camp, so we took the opportunity to attend both open houses. One time the weather was not that great and they didn't get to do everything they wanted, the second time they were able to do it all!

  • Easter came and went with the chance to go to a few egg hunts and other church/community activities.

  • Local (flower) nurseries have had season opening celebrations that had kid activities, food and fun
We've also been able to spend a few weekends almost completely outdoors. So nice to enjoy the good weather when we actually have it. The snow in April wasn't very welcome, but we made it through. Nate has really taken an interest in gardening this year, so we've also spent quite a bit of time scavenging for container garden supplies and plants. Because we live in a rural area and our yard is wide open, having a veggie garden in our yard would only be inviting critters in, so we decided to do our garden on our deck in containers.

I'm already filling up days on our calendar for the summer of activities we can't wait to do! The boys are registered for a week of daycamp while our daycare is closed, vacation Bible school, camping, a trip to Michigan Adventure, family reunions, family picnics, and some other community events sprinkled in there. the county park by us stopped charging admission, so we can go there to play on the beach and swim, or we can head over the Yankee Springs State Park and hit the beach there too!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Medical Expenses

For almost 2 years I took a daily medication (beta blocker) to help keep my migraines under control. It worked pretty well, but I still had quite a few bad days where I had to break out the Maxalt. The beta blocker was only costing me $10/month, but the Maxalt fell into the most expensive tier of my insurance, so it would cost me $40/month and that was only for 10 pills. The typical migraine took 2 pills to fully clear up. After ruling out physical reasons for the migraines, my Dr strongly urged me to start eliminating some things from my diet and also going off of the beta blockers to get a "base" of what was going on. My previous Dr had the dose on the beta blockers so high my BP was super low and all I wanted to do was sleep. I hated it! Not only was I constantly tired, but I was STILL getting headaches! I had some other medical things going on and the specialist flat out tell me to stop drinking Diet Coke because it was causing me all kinds of other problems. I figured it was worth a shot to give it a try and see if something as simple as eliminating Diet Coke could make that big of a difference. If it helped even one of the problems I was having, it would be worth it. No more beta blockers I gave up caffeine, except for one cup of "real" coffee per day I was still drinking a significant amount of Caffeine Free Diet Coke Then I gave that up As of January 1, I have not had a single drink of carbonated beverages. No Diet Coke (caffinated or otherwise) and switched to pretty much just drinking water and a very limited amount of brewed iced tea. Because I had weaned down on the caffeine, giving up the soda wasn't as hard as it would have been a few months earlier. The good news, I've not had to take ANY medication for my migraines since giving up carbonated drinks! It's AMAZING! I drank my last Diet Coke on New Year's Eve and it's April 15, NO HEADACHES! I was having at least 2-3 per week, so going this long without one is a huge accomplishment. The weather is getting nicer and I've not had to waste a day in bed nursing a migraine. I'm spending time with my kids outside, I'm working on training for my first 5K and I am LOVING every minute of it! Oh and as a hidden bonus, I'm saving money on my grocery bill by not buying soda

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two Birds, One Stone

I have been struggling since my pregnancy with Nick with some weight gain, or I guess the more appropriate phrase would be struggling with weight loss since I have no problem gaining. I was finally starting to feel human again and then BAM, pregnant again! Lauren's 3yrs old now and it's a bit hard to consider my excess weight to be "baby weight" when I am shopping for her in the girls section and not the baby section any longer!

One of the items on my bucket list is (and has been) to run a 5K. I don't really care for running all that much and I have never gotten that "zen" like feeling that people talk about, but it's something I would like to accomplish. I started the Couch to 5K running plan this past fall and made it over half way through the program and then got side tracked by some medical stuff and weather.

Now that I have declared my bucket list as public knowledge, I am more motivated to get some things crossed off. Is there anything worse than a to-do list that has NOTHING crossed off? I think not! It's officially time to DO WORK SON!

Tonight when Matt woke up I put on ye old running shoes, grabbed my charged up iPod and hit the road. I am starting over at week 1 and I am hoping to finish the program by running in the 5th 3rd Riverbank Run on May 14. This puts a tight timeline, so I am going to have to really stick to it to make it happen. I sent a message to the person at work who is organizing our team to see if I can still get in as part of that, otherwise I'll just register on my own and meet up with the people from work when I get there.

So how is this a dual purpose bucket list item? Well I was thrilled to look at the list of charity partners affiliated with the race and find some of my most favorite charities are benefiting from the money race by the race!

Charity Partners

My very open ended bucket list item is to "feed the hungry" and I hope that I never ever cross that off. We support a local food pantry with money and donations as much as we possibly can. By using coupons and shopping sales, I can sometimes come across things that I know my family won't eat, but I can still pick up for pennies and donate to the pantry. Just because we won't eat it doesn't mean that someone else doesn't like it!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bucket List

I try and keep the focus of this blog on financial goals and activities, but all considering, this very much ties together a lot of financial and personal goals. I have been thinking about putting this "Bucket List" down for quite some time and finally got my thoughts organized enough to begin it.

A lot of the reason why Matt and I have been so eager to be debt free is because we want to be able to use our finances to glorify God. What better way to be the hands and feet of Jesus than to be able to freely give to those in need when we are blessed with so much? Of course there are always way to do kingdom work without money, and we actively work towards that, but not having the stress of debt and the obligations tied to us will certainly open up doors for ministry that we might not otherwise be able to perform.

This is my first draft of my personal bucket list. Matt doesn't have one that I am aware of, but he is very much a part of many of these. Some are personal, some are family, but they are all things that I very much look forward to crossing off.

  • Run a 5K

  • Sing in a choir

  • Read the entire Bible

  • Go on a missions trip

  • Open a B&B

  • Visit Ireland

  • Go on a cruise

  • Give my Christian testimony

  • Finish a master's degree

  • Go in a hot air balloon

  • Take my kids to Disney

  • Be completely debt free

  • Learn to ski

  • Be in a movie

  • Be a mentor

  • Visit South America

  • Visit Europe

  • Visit Asia

  • Visit Australia

  • Visit Africa

  • Visit a National Park

  • See Mt. Rushmore

  • Go to Vegas

  • Blog my life story for my kids

  • Feed the hungry

  • Go to an NFL football game

  • Stay at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

  • Visit Niagra Falls

  • Attend service at Saddleback Church

  • Meet my dad

Anyone else brave enough to blog what their bucket list is? Will you share?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Another Exciting Purchase!

I've been holding out for some time now on replacing my digital camera. I've had mine about 6 years or so, and it wasn't doing so well anymore. It's gone through a lot and has served us well and I will forever be impressed with Canon products after this. We spent some time researching digital cameras and decided on what we wanted:

1. Digital SLR
2. Canon
3. XSi, T1i, or a T2i

While we preferred to have a camera that took video clips, it was not on the "absolutes" list, so it did open up our options a bit. We've been scouting out the Canon website for refurbished models since they have an excellent reputation, and missed a great deal a few weeks ago. We've also been scouting out our favorite deal websites for any odd coupons or such out there with not much action. Target clearanced out a bunch of floor models on Monday and I missed them.

Well today I did my usual and found through a deal alert that Meijer of all places had the Canon T1i for 30% off on clearance! It was my lunch hour so I hit the road and went to the usual Meijer I shop at and they had the card on display, but the actual camera was gone. I was so bummed! The associate was incredibly helpful though and looked up to see what stores in the area had the camera and the one right down the road 15 minutes away had it, in fact they had 2! I hopped in my car and got there and my camera is MINE!

Another pretty major purchase that we've wanted to make and we've (well I've been patient, Matt not so much!) been patiently waiting for the right time to jump. Our patience saved us well over $200. I have no regrets about the purchase because I've had plenty of time to research and understand what I was getting. I knew my price point and I stuck to it. That $200 that we saved will surely be put to good use!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New (To Me) Wheels!

Matt and I have been planning on getting rid of our Pontiac Aztek for quite some time because having 2 large vehicles for our family just seemed so silly. Whenever we all go out as a family, we go in our minivan, so we really didn't need another large vehicle. I was driving the minivan to work every day and that also seemed pretty wasteful.

I was pretty specific in what I was looking for: Honda Accord, Honda Civic, or a Toyota Corolla, 4 doors, under 150,000 miles and an automatic. I also had a magic number that I absolutely wouldn't pay more than because we were paying cash for the car. Tax return time was our plan and it all just fell nicely into place. My brother wanted to buy the Aztek, and was able to sell his car pretty quickly. I test drove a few small cars, but nothing really jumped out as "the car".

As I was getting down to the wire, as in the day I was handing the keys to the Aztek to my brother, I happened to talk with my sister Jamie on Facebook and suddenly remembered that my brother Scott used to manage a used car lot! I don't know why I hadn't thought of him before! Turns out he happened to have a Honda Accord that he was selling and it was exactly what I was looking for!

It has certainly been an interesting few weeks, but our patience and determination paid off! We have the car we wanted, we paid less than we had budgeted, and we did not take on a penny of debt to do it!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Long, Long Overdue Update

A friend of mine from work commented to me yesterday that she was reading my blog and I admitted to her that I felt bad because I hadn't updated it in so long. What can I say? Life caught up with me and life certainly got crazy really fast.

We made it through another "cash only" Christmas with much success. It's not as hard as I thought it would be and it was fun to try and find those best deals for the kids and also get them the things they wanted.

In December, Matt accepted a new full-time job and that's made our lives very interesting. We had to line up full time daycare for Lauren, part time daycare for Nick, and transportation for Nate, and juggle all the bus schedules for Nick. It was crazy there for a few weeks especially since Matt was working day shift for a bit, and then was switched over to third shift. He's been on third shift now for a couple of weeks and we are slowly getting used to the "new".

Before he even accepted the new job, we were thinking about our car situation and how we were being pretty wasteful by having 2 larger vehicles that take a lot of gas to run, especially since I am driving by myself every day to Grand Rapids in a minivan. We didn't have the cash on hand right away to make any changes, but we started saving up furiously to get a small economy car for me to commute to work with every day and keep the minivan for those times where all of us are in the car together. Since the Aztek doesn't really fit all of us all that well, we made the decision that it would be the car to go. Now we are on the hunt for a used Honda Civic within our budget, and we'll hopefully be able to get that taken care of in the next couple of weeks. Someone might buy the Aztek from us and we'll have that cash towards the car, or if that falls through we can just trade it in.

Another pretty big thing that hit our financial radar since my last post is that Nate has braces. Kind of bad timing, but it is what it is. Our plan year for flex spending has open enrollment in August and becomes effective in September, so I totally missed the window when we went to the orthodontist in October. When we went the previous year for our first consult, it was hard to know if he would need braces this past October (2010) or if we could wait another year (October 2011) and because of all the changes to flex spending and the healthcare reform, I decided not to guess high on my flex election and lost. I guess it's better than guessing wrong and being stuck with a bunch of money in flex that I lose, but it still would have been nice to have that money set aside. We did set up a payment plan with the orthodontist to pay it off rather quickly, but it was certainly medical expenses that we were not really counting on paying. I am just glad I could set it up on a payment plan because I was NOT going to open any sort of line of credit in order to make it happen. My dental insurance covered a small portion of it, we're making monthly payments, and when tax return money comes in, a nice chunk will go to the balance. If we owe anything when August comes up, I can flex the balance then. Nate better thank me later in life for all this juggling I'm doing to give him a nice smile!

Speaking of tax returns, I got those taken care of this past week and filed. We are getting back a nice return and have made a plan of attack as to what we are going to do with that money:

1. Economy car
2. Replace my digital camera
3. Eye exam/contacts for me
4. Orthodontist

Not very exciting, but all things that we need to take care of financially. I've been pricing the camera I want to get and missed a couple of great deals, so I am just biding my time and watching for the next one to come up. I have patience so I will wait a bit if it means saving a significant amount of money.