Friday, November 26, 2010

home repairs

Home repairs can be expensive and eat away at the budget, but after some ups and downs in the last month, I am determined to save some money in the home repair category.

Our fireplace has been broke since last March, so about two weeks ago, I was determined to figure it out. It stopped working when we replaced the batteries in the remote. Both my husband and I had each looked at the fireplace several times to no avail. However, I decided that if I couldn't figure it out, I was calling someone to fix it. After looking through the owner's manual and figuring out that the remote control figure was not the standard for this model, I was able to re-program the remote and get the fireplace up and running. So exciting, we were able to save some money and enjoy the fireplace again.

However, last week our dryer stopped working. Imagine having no dryer with laundry for two kids.  We have been surrounded by clothes drying throughout the house.  The drum wouldn't turn, so we could easily narrow it down to the motor or the belt. After speaking with several repair companies, we were looking at around $230, assuming that it was the belt. One of the repair companies had me look through a few things and determined that it was likely the belt. So I went looking online to see what I could find. After searching, I really wanted to figure this out on our own. Last Saturday, my husband and I took apart the dryer and determined that it was the belt. I was hoping the belt just came off the drum, but unfortunately, it was broke. Then, I called the manufacturer and order the belt for $45. I wouldn't recommend doing this all of the time, but we thought we would at least give it a shot and it worked out.

Here's to saving some serious money on home repairs.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


As I look back over the last year, I have a lot to be thankful for.  Here's a few points in my life that I truly appreciate:  two healthy kids; a supportive, loving spouse; a happy and fun home; an amazing extended family; a well-balanced, successful career; volunteer committees that strive to really make a difference; and lastly, my great blog readers - thanks for entertaining me with your reading.

Whether your traveling, cooking, relaxing, or working on Thanksgiving Day, be sure to take time today to appreciate everything that you have.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

splish, splash, i was taking...

... a bath.  Tonight, I was helping my son with his usually nightly routine - dinner, bath, play, and bed.  Tonight he was in the tub playing with his bath toys.  We were picking out letters and saying the letters with corresponding words.  We spelled out a few words - Up, Down, Nate.  It was a lot of fun... but it reminded me that everything we do daily to cut the crust off is just that - cutting the cut off to get to the good stuff.

After we spelled a few words, he began splashing, laughing and having a blast... all the while I was getting soaked.  Some days this would incredibly frustrate me, but tonight I just enjoyed the moment I had with my three year old.

Remember to enjoy the small moments.

Friday, November 19, 2010

friday finance - black friday

I am one of the crazy shoppers out fighting the crowd on Black Friday.  I am so crazy about Black Friday shopping that I usually start planning out my shopping trip starting in early November when the Black Friday ads are leaked or released and posted on sites such as and

I use a spreadsheet to plan out my trip with a list for each location which includes the price per item.  One of the big benefits of doing this is that I am not tempted to buy that door buster deal that I didn't need when I was planning out my list and definitely don't need now that I am in the store.  Some additional benefits:
  • I know exactly how much I am going to spend before I leave the house (at an insanely early hour).
  • I prioritize locations for the best deals.
  • I usually finish all of my holiday shopping.
If you are planning to fight to crowds next Friday, hope you are able to cut your spending a bit by getting some good deals.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

scrapbooking frustration

Scrapbooking has been exhausting.  I finally broke down last week and decided that I was going to get rid of all of the photos that I had printed at one point or another.  So, now I can focus on getting pages done digitally.  I started designing pages with a software that I purchased, but that took way too much time.  Then, I decided that I could breakdown and do the pages through Shutterfly for over $6 a page.  Can you tell I am frustrated?  I was willing to pay $6 A PAGE to finish my scrapbook.

But now, I am focused.  I am working with a software called Smilebox.  Right now, I am on the 14 day trial, but so far I really like it.  I have been using the templates and inserting pictures, then saving the layouts as jpeg document.  Once I have 2010 done, I am going to upload these jpeg files to Costco.  For $2.99 a page, I can have all of my scrapbooking done within a few weeks.  Today, I was able to get 15 pages done.  After three weeks of trying to figure out how I can get this done, I am no longer frustrated but focused on the end goal.

Cutting the frustration out of scrapbooking.

Friday, November 12, 2010

finance friday - student loans

I am starting a new weekly post titled Finance Friday.  My hope is that every Friday I will write about some finance topic that we practice or hope to practice in the future.

Today's post is about student loans.  If you hold a four-year degree or higher, chances are that you and/or your spouse have some student loan debt.  For my household, we have prioritized on paying student loans for the last four years and have reduced that debt by half.  How did we do this?

Set up a payback schedule
We use a spreadsheet with all of the loan detail, so we can adjust the numbers and see how the payoff time frame and interest amount changes.  This allowed us to layout the total amount we owed, how much interest we would pay, and how long we would be paying.

The turning point for us was a variable interest rate on one of our loans.  At one point, it had reached over 7%.  This is low compared to credit cards, but was 4% higher than some of our other student loans.

Here's how we set up our spreadsheet:
  • Each of our loans has a separate tab.
  • The columns are: Payment Date, Payment Amount, Monthly Interest, Principal Payment, Remaining Balance, and Interest Rate (if you have a changing interest rate).
  • We set up formulas to calculate the total amount paid, interest paid, and principal paid.
This first step was the key to understanding our debt.  Prior to this, we made payments and knew that eventually we would get a letter stating that the loans had a zero balance.  Now, we make payments, know how much interest we paid, and know the exact date that our debt will be paid off.

Prioritize loans
Before we started looking at our student loans, we paid off our other higher interest debt.  This allowed us to focus on student loans with any additional money we had left over every month.  If you have other debt, prioritize these loans first, using the methods in a similar way.  When you realize how much money you are spending on interest (especially interest that isn't tax deductible - did someone say credit card debt), it is easy to make the loans more of a priority.

Even after we paid off the variable rate loans, we prioritized loans based on the amount of principal remaining.  This allows us to have a short-term goal, which is attainable.  So for 2011, our goal is to pay off one more student loan and only have one remaining.  If we paid these loans equally, it would take a couple of years before either of the loans were paid off, but by having a short-term goal, it keeps us focused on eliminating the debt.

Paying more than the minimum
This may seem obvious, but it really works.  Has anyone noticed the new breakdowns on credit card statements?  It is amazing how paying a little extra than the minimum can save time and interest.  If you aren't able to afford more than the minimum, start by trying to round to the nearest dollar, adjust your spreadsheet to see how much of a difference that makes - it might not be much, but every little bit helps.  Since we have been paying more than the minimum for some time, our statements currently show that we owe $0, but because we have our spreadsheet, we are able to see that if we paid nothing, we would add about $30/month in interest to our principal payment.

Another factor into paying more than the minimum, if you are deferring your student loans for whatever reason, try to make some payment.  Depending on the loan and deferment type, the loan may or may not accumulate interest.  If interest accumulates, try to make payments that at least match the interest amount to not add to the principal amount.  If interest is also deferred and you are able to make some small payments, these payments will help reduce your debt quicker, since your payments are going directly to the principal amount.

Hope this helps you cut the crust off your debt...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

kids' artwork

The final decorating project for the kids' room revolves around the great artwork that comes home from school.  Every week, our daycare sends home cute art projects that the kids complete.  Some of these go into the scrapbook (or will eventually when I finally get to starting that).  However, I really wanted to be able to display the artwork for a bit.  The fridge is not an option because ours is stainless steel and does not hold magnets.

I bought these frames at Michael's for around $7.99 each and used 40% off coupons for each, so with tax $5.14 each.  I decided to paint the back of the shadowbox in magnetic paint ($8 for a can).  This was painted with three coats of magnetic paint.

Then I painted one red and one blue to match the room.

I added some scrapbook paper for less than $3 total that matches the color scheme of the room to put into the shadowbox.  Here's the end product with two magnet clips for the artwork.

Project #2 done - kids' room complete!  Here is a rundown of the kids' room progress and some pictures of the final project.  Hope you enjoyed the journey.  I enjoyed breaking down the process of completing the kids' room.

On to project #3 - scrapbooking... I have put this off for three years, so here's to hoping that I can get this all cleaned up.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

modern wall circles

When I first saw these circles, I loved them, especially after discovering the theme for the room.  These circles would be perfect painted in multiple colors on the wall.  However, I couldn't choke down the $33 for a set of four, considering I was looking at needing at least four sets.  It would still be around $130, but I didn't love the circles that much.

I looked for weeks to find a deal on the paintable circles and then I found a post about DIY paintable circles, using embroidery hoops.  So, here's my play-by-play on making this wall art.

I picked up a variety of hoops in different sizes from Joann's Fabric for around $20 total.  I used only the interior of the hoop for the circle.

I painted the hoops in red, blue, yellow and brown to match the bedding.  Then, set them out on the floor to see what would work best on the wall, however, I changed a few things as I was putting them on the wall.  Here's the layout on the floor:

To mount the hoops to the wall, I drilled at approximately 45 degree angle through the top and bottom of the hoop and then used a small nail through each drilled hole.

Here's the final result on the wall.

One project left to go for the kids' room and it's complete, but not hung on the wall yet.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

designing something new

The kids' room is almost finished, but I am on to designing a new room - this blog.  I redesigned the blog with a simplier look.  Let me know what you think.  If you don't like it, can't read it, or would change something let me know.

Continuing to finish the kids' room, and start the scrapbooking...