Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments 1/19-1/26

Ready for another week?

Last week we had several no spend days and kept our budgeting software up to date and reconciled with our bank account. I really do not love that part of the process but as long as I get to it every few days it is manageable. I do however love having everything balanced out and a running total of how much is remaining in each category. Better yet is that it is accessible on my phone so I don't have to try and remember what is left in each category when I am on the go.

We celebrated our youngest daughters 2nd birthday! I can't believe how big she is getting. We had a very simple party here at home with a homemade cake and gifts from her siblings and grandparents.

 I sold several items on ebay and got them all shipped out without incident.

I relisted a few things that didn't sell the first time around and those sold this week as well. That is another $240!

I found several items in the garage that had never been opened so I decided to try and return them without a receipt. I first took them to Lowes only to find out they wouldn't take one of the items back because it had been more than 30 days and that the other items didn't come from their store. I decided to drive the extra 10 min to Home Depot to see if the items came from their store. I figured I didn't have anything to lose  but a bit of gas money in the process. I took all three items in and was able to return 2 of the items, including the item Lowes wouldn't accept back. I ended up receiving an in store gift card for $93! I plan to use it this spring to build a picnic table I have been dreaming about for schooling in the backyard and more play sand for the kids sandbox.

While rooting around in the garage I found a tote of winter coats and boots that had been put away in the wrong place during our recent move. Inside I found coats that will work for several of our children if needed. You know the "I can't find my coat" and we have to be out of the house in 10min deal. As well as my winter boots (YAY!) and a pair of boot for our oldest daughter. She was the only one in the house without boots and I kept meaning to go buy her a pair, but since we have had so little snow I kept forgetting. The boots in the box were handme downs from my Aunt's daughter that were too big last year but fit just right this year.

We filled our taxes, which normally wouldn't count as frugal. However we found that our normal tax software raised it's prices because my husband received a promotion this year. We shopped around and dropped the bill from $66 to $20 which made me happy. We may have been able to do it for free on base but my husband's schedule has been very wonky this month and I admit I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to these types of things.

I think that is about it here. I am looking forward to the coming week and closing out January's budget and starting February's. How are things going with you all?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I is for Igloo

What is winter without a milk jug igloo? What? You have never dug around in recycling bins gathering milk jugs to make an igloo? Well let me tell you all about our current insanity!

 We decided to make an igloo while studying the tundra this fall. At the time I didn't realize exactly 
how long it would take us to gather the 200+ milk jugs required for this type of project.  We enlisted all of our friends to save their milk and water jugs for us. When that didn't bring the milk jugs rolling in quite quick enough we started rooting through recycling bins for jugs. It took us several months but we finally made it to the point of construction!

We first laid out cardboard as a base on which to hot glue our first round of jugs. We did base layers of 23 jugs till we reached the height needed to clear the top of the girls heads while sitting. For our children that was 5 layers high.

It took our family roughly 2 hours of hot gluing to reach "igloo" status.

So what did we learn from this insanity of a project? I asked the girls quite a few questions while we were building our igloo. Some of which included:
  • If we were building a real igloo would we have been able to do so while it was this warm outside?
  • If this were a real igloo would we be able to go inside the house and warm our fingers at the fireplace?
  • Do you think Eskimo's completed igloos for fun or out of necessity?
  • Do you think a bigger igloo or a smaller igloo would be warmer?
  • Should we add windows if we want the igloo to be warm?
  • How could be block off the entrance to the igloo to allow people to enter and the cold air to stay outside?
  • How should we arrange the jugs to begin the dome?
  • Why do the jugs need to be well fitted together?
  • What is holding the center of the dome up?
  • What would happen to the igloo if the blocks on the dome were not well fitted together?
  • How would a heavy snow affect the design of the dome?
I really think the girls got a much better feel for how people lived in the tundra when igloos were a necessity.

I also learned a few things:
  • Your children will knock the walls over at least once....probably twice....okay three times....keep calm mama and just go inside for some hot chocolate.
  • Hot glue guns do not work well at 40 degrees. They work mildly better at 45 degrees. Work fast...or better yet make an igloo in the middle of summer.
  • You will not have enough milk jugs no matter how long you save them up. Get more.
  • You need more hot glue. Lots more.
  • Have a really good time playing with it immediately because it will more than likely collapse under the first stiff wind.
Have you completed any off the wall projects with your kiddos in the interest of concreting facts into their memory? I would love to hear about them!

Frugal Accomplishments 1/12-1/18

That time of the week again!

We have had 4 no spend days here this week.

Using swagbucks I earned the maximum monthly allowance of $25 in amazon gift cards. I am now working towards a $25 paypal gift card.

My husband received a small first of the year raise so I updated the budget and allocated the money towards our current monthly goals.

On Thursday we had swim lessons and then ABA therapy here at home. At 5pm I realized we were out of just about everything and didn't even have bread for sandwiches. I decided to take all 6 kids to the grocery store....alone.....yes I had lost my mind. We completed the grocery shopping on target for our budget and then had a quick dinner here at home at 7pm of hot dogs and chips.

Friday was Junior Engineering, ABA therapy, and girl scouts. I really wanted to eat out for dinner but powered through and resisted. I returned an item to the BX and then used the refund to purchase some toiletries for my husband. We then popped over to the commissary for some produce and dairy items. I purchase a bunch of bananas and we sat down in the food court to eat them while waiting on the big girls to finish girl scouts. Dinner was quick grilled cheese sandwiches at 8pm.

Saturday was my Christmas gift day of pampering from my husband. I had an hour and a half long full body hot stone massage (seriously even my ears!) and then a manicure (from my blow money). I really wanted to eat out as it was 4pm and I had only had 2 eggs and a granola bar to eat that day. I stopped at the commissary instead and this time purchased a small salad and bottle of water.  I started to purchase a book while I was out but decided at the last second to put it back and find it used or use one of my swagbucks gift cards instead. I ended up ordering it used through amazon for $4, all of which was covered by my gift cards.

I returned an external CD drive that I had purchased with my gift cards that I found was defective. They shipped it back for free and refunded the money to my gift card account.

I "found" an extra $251 from our budget to send to our current monthly goals. The money came from underspending some categories and cashing in reward points from our credit card.

My ebay auctions went well and I made a total of $127 on 3 items. I am planning on sending them money towards our current monthly goals.

Today has been a cold rainy lazy day. We had swim team this morning but other than that we have been home hanging out all day. Today has been a no spend day and we are all snuggled up watching the Packers game and eating homemade pizza.

There were a lot of temptations this week but we held strong. We made it the entire week without eating in a restaurant which I am taking as a huge win!

I look forward to hearing about your week!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments 1/5 - 1/11

 This has been a busy week at our house. We have 6 sick children and a full schedule to complete. We managed to get almost everything accomplished which I am counting a massive success!

So here we go....

I earned another $10 in gift cards through swagbucks and used the money to purchase a new financial book called Slaying the Debt Dragon.

We ate at home 5 days this week

We had several no spend days this week

I stayed on budget while shopping for the twins birthday decorations and math games for our 8 yr old.

We had homemade birthday cakes and a very low key party for our brand new 5yr olds!

I was selected to teach an engineering class for 5-7yr olds in our local homeschool co op for this spring. I asked another mom (Architect with teenaged daughter) for ideas. She hooked me up with 6 classes for very little in supplies

I sold 2 of my unused teachers manuals ($10) to buy our spot in the co op for our 5 girls. The 8-10yr olds will be taking Human anatomy, Genetics and biotechnology, and Engineering. The 5yr olds will be taking Kinder-music, Engineering, and Genetics and biotechnology.

I was selected to review an audio history program for my blog. I am very excited about this one!

I made breakfast with water instead of the milk the recipe called for.You would be surprised how many recipes can be altered to use water instead of milk.

Grocery shopping came in at $10 under budget

I reconciled our bank account and YNAB and we are on target

I sold another unused teachers manual for $5

 I listed a bunch of stuff on ebay and two items have bids!

That is it for our house for this week. I would love to hear how things have been going at your house!

How We Use Preschool Workboxes in Our School Day

We are homeschooling our 4 oldest daughters while taking care of our two youngest children. Our almost 5yr old twins were constantly coming in while I was working one on one with our oldest two daughters and asking "Is it time for our school now?". While I love that they are so interested in school and motivated to learn I was getting a little overwhelmed trying to balance all four at one time. A friend recommended a workbox system. The more I looked into it the more it made sense for our family. I loved the idea of having their work presorted, preboxed, and ready to hand out whenever the girls were motivated to start working. 

I started by reading Sue Patrick's Workbox System ebook. I found her approach to be very educational but a bit more structured than I wanted to get. I am the type of person who throws teachers manuals away. I don't really do well with step by step directions. I took Sue Patrick's idea and then went my own way with it...

First up was boxes. I do not have the room in my school room for multiple boxes per student per day. I wanted a box big enough to hold a whole day's work and easy enough for a 5yr old to handle moving from place to place. I did some searching and decided to go with this set of 12 plastic shoebox storage bins. I needed 10 boxes and figured I could use the 2 extra boxes for school supply storage. I love them. They are simple for the girls to carry around and easy for them to open and close on their own! 

The first step once I received the boxes was to figure out what I wanted to include for each day's work.  The first item was simple enough. We have been doing a new ABC pack from 3dinosaurs each week. I can't say enough good things about these ABC packs. They are very in depth and cover so much material. We have only been completing part 1 of 6 each week just because there is so much offered. All for free!

Next up I wanted to add something "exciting" for them to complete. I did some searching and found tons of free preschool packs available in all different types of themes. The girls favorites would have to be Doc Mcstuffins and Frozen themed packs. Big shock there!

Lastly each day I added 1-2 pages from their preschool workbook. These sheets cover everything from rhyming to math. These are the only sheets in the boxes that need either mom or an older sister to help with. The older girls LOVE to get to teach their little sisters, luckily the little ones appreciate having their older sisters one on one attention.

In Friday's box I added the girls ABC My First Sticker Activity Book. The girls LOVE this book and I have to stop them from competing the entire thing in one sitting. I instead allow them to do that weeks letter pages on Friday after they have completed all of their previous work for that week.

Once all of the boxes were prepped and ready to go for the week I cleared a few shelves in our storage unit and got everything set up and ready to go for the week.

The true test....how did the girls like the boxes? They were a major hit! So much so I have to stop them from completing all 5 boxes on the first day of the week. I think I need to add more to each of the boxes!

So what does mom think of the boxes? I am a major fan. I love being able to pull out the boxes while I am working with the big girls and have all four girls doing school at one time. I can't explain how amazing the quiet is when you have four energetic children all sitting still at one time learning! 

I would love to hear how you implement workboxes in your family!

Monday, January 5, 2015

How To Make Your Own Hair Detangler

We have 5 very active little girls...that is a lot of tangled hair to brush!

I have learned some tricks along the way however and one of those is to make our own hair detangler. A 10oz bottle of spray detangler is roughly $5 when purchased retail.  We use about 20oz of detangler per month, that is approximately $140 per year!

I have a much cheaper option! I purchased this set of three spray bottles for $5.50 I then added 2 Tbsp of conditioner to each bottle and filled the remaining bottle with water. Shake well and BAM! You have homemade detangler. Just spray liberally throughout the hair and brush through.

Seriously that easy!

Each bottle of homemade detangler is 8oz. So how does that break down?

1 ounce of store bought detangler: $0.55
1 ounce homemade detangler start up batch: $0.22

All subsequent batches would be mere pennies thanks to not having to purchase the bottles each time. I love how easy this is to make and use. I originally thought that three bottles was overkill but found having multiple bottles to be very helpful. We keep a bottle by the front door with hair bands for those "We are walking out the door and you are a hot mess" moments, in the girls bathroom for brushing in the mornings and before bed, and in the master bedroom for those "I can't find the spray!" moments that you know happens often.

I would love to hear how this works for you and any tips you have concerning taming wild woman hair!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Meet the 2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew!

As I mentioned last month our family was extremely blessed to be given a spot on the Schoolhouse Review Crew this year. We however were not the only family chosen to participate in this amazing opportunity. I would like to introduce you to some of the amazing folks who have taken this journey with us. I can not even begin to tell you how much invaluable knowledge is shared through these blogs. I am so excited to be beginning this journey and look forward to all of the adventures to come!


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