Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Crown of Thorns...

Finally, this year, the kids and I baked a crown of thorns made of flour, salt, cinnamon and water!  I thoroughly enjoyed this Lenten project, and I am looking forward to its unfolding throughout the next less-than-forty days left of this Lenten season.  The girls have already pulled out few thorns (toothpicks) from the crown every time they did something thoughtful, kind or generous.  I am glad they have taken control of the project rather than my handling it.  What are some of my thorns I need to pull out, I begin to wonder, and the first thing that comes to my mind is the over-reacting Mommy yelling at her kids to do something for the second, third, fourth,...an umpteenth time!  Ouch!  Those are my thorns I need to work on this Lenten season so that I can be transformed into a new, better-adjusted Mommy for the sake of my family.  So, wish me luck...that I may be able to pull out a few of my thorns this time.  Perhaps, then, I can truly celebrate Easter, the risen Christ among us, as a new, enlightened and transformed Mommy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


For the last four months or so, I have been waking up every morning thinking about...well, MONEY, and how to bring it under control to make it work for my family of five.  I used to take first five minutes of my day in prayer, now I spend every waking moment thinking about...well, MONEY.  I am afraid I have let myself fall prey to letting MONEY take control of my life rather than my taking control of it.  Perhaps, it goes both ways.  In any case, I have stopped being fully present in the moment especially when my kids come home from school, still dazed and distracted from thinking about and reading about money.  It is a wonder how I go through the motions of every day routine at all!  I had to remind myself what the point of all my research and hard work in order to come up with a system that works for my family in the first place was--to provide for my family of five now and in the future by living frugally and nurturing that value of frugal living by appreciating one another now...frugally.  But, if I am not fully present to them when they are around, what good will that do?  So, my goal this Lenten season (this spring season before Easter) is to do just that!  Turn off the computer (since that is one main distraction for me--the internet) and give my kids my fullest possible attention...before they grow up so fast and start turning ME off!  So, wish me luck and send your prayers my way toward being a fully-present stay-at-home mom!  Too easy said!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Veggies in Bulk...

One of my goals this year is to reduce our grocery budget over time.  One of the few things I am trying to get in the habit of doing is buying needed grocery items in bulk on sale while reducing the number of trips to once a week at the most.  Doing a 2-week menu based on sales and what is available in my pantry and freezer has definitely helped reduce that number of shopping trips as well as the stress it brings to go out with a toddler anywhere...sometimes.  Anyways, I definitely look forward to my weekly sale fliers every Tuesday afternoon to see what might be on sale in each of the stores just to keep abreast of what I might be cooking for the next week or two.  America's Cheapest Family and Miserly MOMS have definitely been helpful in bringing about the change, especially that of buying things on sale in bulk and preparing them in bulk and freezing them for later use.  I have begun to enlist the help of my six- and five-year-olds with peeling carrots and onions in bulk, and so far it's been great...even if the carrots peeled are now half the thickness of their original form.  But, I get it.  It's one thing I have begun to look forward to doing on our weekends--washing, peeling, cutting vegetables ahead of time to save time later.  I am hoping I'll eventually get to freeze-cooking one or two of the meals for the week (Money Saving Mom is another advocate of this project).  For now, I am trying to cook dinners in bulk to last two or three meals.  It does save energy, time and gas to cook in bulk, and I just wonder why I didn't think of that.  I love cooking brown rice in bulk in our pressure cooker and freezing two freezer bags of cooked brown rice for later in the week.  Even though cooking in bulk (larger than enough for one meal for five) sometimes means we end up eating more, I am learning the value of freeze-cooking even one meal for the week since that means one day I do not have to cook or spend extra money to get something quick just because I didn't have the time or didn't feel like cooking.  While this is an on-going project for me that I still have to implement, it has been just wonderful sticking to my 2-week menu and preparing vegetables in advance for future cooking in the week ahead during the weekend...at least when it's not Super Bowl Sunday, that is.

Monday, February 4, 2013


In my attempt to be more frugal this year, I have begun to take Miserly MOMS's advice and start making few things home-made!  I started with the basic pizza dough first.  Then, I moved on to making my very first home-made whole-wheat tortillas!  I used a simple recipe I found on line...although I had to make adjustments since I lost the instructions (Note to self: always save the entire recipe, not just the ingredient list)!  Anyways, they turned out all right for my first attempt, and my kids and husband were quite impressed.  They are so yummy and simple to make, I didn't realize, and are just wonderful as cheese quesadillas, our kids' favorite!  My next project: home-made granola!  Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

College...Part I

Or it should be entitled, What I got out of The Economides' Money Smart Family System: Teaching Financial Independence to Children of Every Age (Thomas Nelson, 2012) http://www.amazon.com/The-MoneySmart-Family-System-Independence/dp/1400202841/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359941103&sr=8-1&keywords=money+smart+family+system

So what did I learn?  It is as important as starting and contributing to college savings accounts for your kids as educating them as early as possible the value of frugality in their own saving/spending habits.  By the way, I have found that Louisiana and New York 529 plans are among the ones with the lowest fees (although Louisiana one is only open to Louisianans).  For more information on this subject, please refer to www.savingforcollege.com.  I guess my challenge is to come up with a system that works for my own family...one that will help my husband and me to teach our own children the value of saving and spending money wisely while living within and below our means that we have learned over the years.  I especially like their point system that translates into dollars (kind of like an allowance).  For now, however, I think we'll stick to the point system that translates into rewards, e.g., 10 minutes on the ipad, which is their biggest object of interest right now.  My six- and five-year-olds are OK with saving all their money in their piggy banks for college...at least for now.  But, it is definitely a challenge and a call to come up with my own system that will work for our family.  Once I have it figured out, it will be my next blog post on this subject.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Where to begin?  How about maximizing the retirement plan offered by my husband's work?  So I have been told, and so we did.  It was a stretch at first we thought we couldn't handle, but we could!  As we slowly made other changes in our budget to prioritize our retirement contributions.  We figured it was most important that we got that covered before we can set up college savings for our kids and tackle other areas of investment since if we can't take care of ourselves in our old age, how would that really help our kids pursue college and their dreams?  I didn't believe it possible, but I am learning that money is something that can be "stretched" (as some have used the term--for one in Miserly MOMS by Jonni McCoy) for your purpose.  Similar to what McCoy advises, by reviewing our spending records from last year and looking ahead, we were able to find what we needed to set aside each month for each particular purpose this year, and it was actually fun getting in control of our money.

I still do not know too much about investment and rebalancing portfolio and such, but it is one of my goals to get a handle on "making most of my money now" (as Jane Bryant Quinn offers many do-able solutions in her self-same book Making the Most of Your Money NOW (Simon & Schuster, 2009).  As in her book and in many other similar articles I have read about money, the list of goals (in order of priority) is similar, but here is ours:
  1.  Maximize Retirement savings
   2.  Emergency Fund
     3.  College Savings
       4.  Pay off house
         5.  Save for other goals.

Saving has become fun and rewarding for the pure sake of knowing that you have some control over the future that way.  We are not quite all there, but we are surely on our way with the right step forward.

Monday, January 28, 2013


I have been a stay-at-home mom for now almost seven years!  And, for the first time in a very long time, I have finally begun to relish staying home with my kids...again!  I had been for a while debating the well-known question, i.e., whether to stay home or return to work--that every mom must at least once consider.  And, finally, with a little help from a few mom friends whose strong commitment to staying home with kids has inspired me consider it as a commitment and from my new favorite book authors who have laid out the facts for me--e.g., Jonni McCoy in her Miserly MOMS: Living Well on Less in a Tough Economy (2009).  Not only did I realize that I can save $10,000/year just on day care by staying home, but I also began to see that, thanks to a friend, that is probably what I would have wanted when I was a kid--to have my mom available to me when I wanted and needed her.  And, deep down, that is what I would want for my kids.  So, with this new commitment to staying home came a new desire to keep things in order and in budget so that we can still accomplish what we want while staying in budget and keeping my sanity intact!

So, how can I keep my sanity and passion alive while staying home with kids?  Here's my check-list for this year:
1.  Set and prioritize goals and work toward achieving them every day! (See Crystal Paine's The Money Saving Mom's Budget, 2012 for more inspiring ideas).  
2.  Find the time of day that works best for me and make that my "work-time" (My work time has become the first two hours before everyone wakes up.  Now only if I could get more disciplined about the use of my work time!)
3.  Set my budget (monthly and annually) and stick to it.  Also, check and maintain it consistently either weekly or bi-weekly.  Get in the habit of sticking to my budget every time I make that trip to the store...without falling prey to the newest marketing ploys!
4.  Find a hobby (old or new) and put in the time to develop that hobby into a skill that may be useful some day. I am hoping to pick up knitting this year and looking forward to knitting scarves and beanies for me and my family...and even as gifts--OK, let's not get ahead of myself there!  My other resolution has been to practice the piano regularly along with my kids, but that may need a little push.
5.  Deepen my existing friendships and make new friends and build a network of support...because I know I am not alone in this endeavor!
6.  Find time for my inner growth...with God!  With God's help, I can do it!

So, with that thought, I am enjoying staying home with kids...because I finally realized in my pursuit of happiness that happiness is found in realizing and accepting the hard fact that what I already have is what I truly desire.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Beginning...

Where to start?  Gosh, I have been keeping a budget file for as long as I have been married, thanks to my detail-oriented, well-organized husband!  But, I don't think I have really stuck to it strictly or knew that I could cut here and there until the economy started taking a turn for the worse and my husband and I started having more arguments about money more often probably because of all the issues that come about from trying to provide for a family of five now and in the long future to come, so we hope.

Then, like a gift from God, I had a chance to read an article from Real Simple magazine, titled, "Women and Money" (http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/money/planning/womenandmoney-00100000086161/index.html)
--it was just what I needed to get inspired to thinking about money in a more approachable way.  I must say the real change came about once I started reading the books on their recommendation list, one of which included The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko (Gallery Books, 1998) http://www.amazon.com/The-Millionaire-Next-Door-Surprising/dp/1589795474/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358260977&sr=8-1&keywords=millionaire+next+door.  The key thing I took away from the book is frugality of the wife (one of the key characteristics of self-made millionaires).  And, I started taking better control of the money we have in order to set in proper motion for our future of five.  So, I guess that is my beginning, the life and wonder of five! Stay tuned for more!