I love these books for my marathon baking sessions or cleaning days. Tuck them in your pocket and you can zone out and you might actually look forward to cleaning the bathroom!
I make three versions of dinner every night: a toddler version for our 19 month old, a “regular” version for my husband (aka Mr Meat and Potatoes) and a vegetarian version for myself. I don’t enjoy cooking as much as I enjoy baking so we have fresh baked goods and dessert every week! Here is this week’s plan:
Crock Pot Swiss Chicken Casserole with brown rice
Toddler: Chicken with sauteed carrots
Veggie: Brown Rice with sauteed carrots
Lasagna with Texas Toast and green salad (this has no meat in it)
Toddler: Broccoli & Cheese Nuggets with plain green salad
Garlic Chicken, Veggie and Penne Pasta
Toddler: same with very light sauce
Vegetarian: Green Salad with Cheddar Cheese Muffins and chutney
(Muffins also serve as a snack all week)
Sliced Steak with Texas Toast (marinade steak, grill and slice it thinly, then fan on top of Texas Toast), Corn
Toddler: steak and corn
Vegetarian: Tomato Soup and Texas Toast
Quesadillas– cheese, chicken, salsa, sour cream
Toddler: cheese, chicken, corn and black beans
Veggie: Black beans, corn, cheese, salsa, sour cream
Hamburgers with Worcestershire Sauce, Mozzarella and red peppers, green beans
Toddler: Turkey burger chopped with a little melted cheese and red peppers, green beans
Veggie: Same but substitute Boca Burger
Chocolate Chip Blondies
Chocolate Snatcheroos (a version of a rice krispy treat with cocoa krispies and peanut butter)
Lemon pudding parfait- layered with whip cream, crumbled graham cracker and frozen berries (note if you have the Beech Nut coupons for $1/1 you can also use the banana cookies instead of graham crackers. These are roughly 1.40 a box at Walmart).
You will notice I am using as much from my stockpile as possible. I have purchased a lot of frozen veggies with the freezer promo at Safeway, 2 boxes of Texas Toast from the same promotion, using up Jello from the Kraft free wyb coupons that were out a few months ago, using some cocoa krispies we got free a few months ago during a cereal promo at Raleys, using peanut butter we got for .39 at Walgreens, and substituting Bliss chocolates we got for free at Walgreens for chocolate chips. Also using a cranberry chutney as a topping for cheddar muffins. Chutney is something I used for leftover turkey sandwiches during the holidays and have a little left. Crockpot Swiss Chicken will use up the last box of stuffing I also have from the holidays.
If you haven’t heard of Dave Ramsey, he is a financial advisor that offers down-home, simple advice to take control of your finances. You can learn more about his philosophy by catching his television call-in show on the Fox Business Channel, his radio call in show or by reading his books. I listened to his book, Total Money Makeover, 4 years ago during my commute to and from work. My husband and I quickly became hooked and we decided to drag ourselves out of debt following Dave’s plan. At the time, I had read the books of a number of financial advisers and Dave’s program seemed to make the most sense for us.
His mantra is to pay cash for what you have, live within your means and stay debt free. Sounds easy, right?
The very simplified version of Dave’s plan includes 7 “baby steps:”
Save $1000 as a beginners emergency fund
Pay off debt using Debt Snowball
Build Emergency Fund up to 3-6 months expenses
Invest 15% in retirement accounts
College fund for children
Pay off Mortgage
Build wealth and give to charities
At the time we started, we were engaged with no children and had a good income. We had also just purchased a $280k home with nothing down, nothing in savings and had gotten accustomed to spending whatever we earned. When we started the snowball, we owed about $12,000 on 2 cars, about $10,000 in credit cards and about $17,000 in student loans. Ouch.
In about 18 months we paid off almost all the debt. Here’s how:
1. We started living on a budget. Looking back we could have saved so much more! We weren’t ready to give up shopping, vacations, eating out etc… This was way before I learned to coupon and not only did I pay for shampoo but it was $20 salon brand to go with my $150 highlights.
2. We got serious about the snowball and decided to face our debt. We taped a plain sheet of paper to the refrigerator with a running total of all the debts. Every time we made a payment I would update the total. It was so satisfying to see the balance get lower and lower- I became pretty addicted. If we got a $100 incentive check or $50 from an aunt for a birthday I would immediately pay the credit card. I paid our cards so often that the credit card company actually limited me to how many payments I could make in one month! The sheet confronted us every day and served to really keep debt reduction front of mind. We kept it up even when friends were over because we made the decision to stop pretending and to be honest about our challenge. Most people made fun of us or worse- called me tacky, money obsessed, cheap etc… but I believe that being honest about money is the only way to gain control.
3. We paid off the cars, paid off the credit cards and started working on the student loans. I used to have a stack of preaddressed envelopes with notes inside that said “Please credit the enclosed check for $x.xx to account #…” I put those right by my keyboard in my office and every single payday I would send as much as I could to my loans. Some months it was $20 and some months it was $500. Every penny counts when working toward a goal!
During that time, we also got married and had a wonderful honeymoon, furnished a 2000 sq foot home, I got my MBA and we started planning for a baby. We stayed out of debt during that entire process which was another major accomplishment. I am proud to say four years later we own our cars outright and haven’t touched a credit card.
But then we slipped.
I highly recommend getting on board with Dave’s program and have two of his books on my Amazon sidebar. I recommend starting with Total Money Makeover. You can read the book or listen to the audio version and it breaks everything down in very clear terms.
(Stay tuned for part 2 with how we thought we were smarter than Dave and fell off the wagon and part 3 where we are today.)
Have I mentioned I love to bake? There is nothing more satisfying than fresh breads, scones, muffins, cookies– I have never met a carb I didn’t like. I have found baking things takes a small time commitment but always tastes so much better than the stuff you can buy at the store. Plus I regularly double or triple my batches and freeze them so I can have something delicious at any time.
This week I plan to make:
Ina’s Sticky Buns : DONE
Cheddar Cheese Muffins
Chocolate Snatcheroos (a chocolate/peanut butter version of rice krispie treats)
I will update my progression throughout the day! Check out this post on how I freeze a lot of my extra baked goods.
Unemployment offices in most states are so swamped right now they are asking for 6 weeks to process claims. My case is nearing the 10 week mark and we have been told the process won’t go any faster unless we can prove severe hardship- such as a foreclosure notice from our bank.
Thank goodness we got on board with Dave Ramsey years ago and paid off almost all my school loans, our cars and credit cards. We still have a portion of my grad school to pay off and then we can really get back on board with focusing on our savings account.
What I have learned from this experience is the importance of having a savings account. Since I am 31 weeks pregnant the opportunities for employment are limited. I had no idea the unemployment process took so long and that it would be over two months without a word.
I also decided to be extremely proactive in the process. The night we heard my company would be closing, we sat down and really looked at our budget. When we moved to California last January we put 20% down on our house, which basically wiped out our savings. This was a mistake that we have learned from and will never repeat! At the time we had no idea the economy would experience the roller coaster we have all been on.
Since then, we have been focused on slowly building our savings back up and have 3 months of expenses in the bank. Our goal is to not have to touch that money during this process so we slashed everything in the budget. I fought our way out of an expensive cell phone contract and I will be getting a prepaid phone. I would skip this altogether except being so far in the pregnancy I feel more secure knowing I can get ahold of someone just in case. We slashed our grocery budget down to $30 and I am spending a lot more time at home to avoid filling up our tank. We cancelled my daughter’s expensive gymnastics class and I am taking her to the park several days a week instead. I sold a few items we don’t use on Craigslist. I submitted our taxes the same day I got our final W-2 and we have already received a refund from the federal government. (Just in time to pay the registration on both of our vehicles).
While we aren’t in financial peril, we should have known better than to empty our savings account last year. I am thankful that we do have savings in place that combined with my husband’s income would easily get us through the end of this year. I am thankful that we don’t have bill collectors calling since we paid off our cars and credit cards years ago. I am also thankful that we have the determination not to go back into credit card debt and we are willing to do just about anything to stay out of it. We are also trying to stay positive and are looking forward to getting back on track with the debt snowball to pay off the last bit of student loans.
Stay tuned as I will be posting our experiences with Dave’s program and how we eliminated over $20k in debt a few years ago.