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Monday, 27 January 2014

Random Acts of kindness for less than $1

I love a random act of kindness.  I even did a previous blog about it here.
I love the element of surprise, the happy smile and knowing that we made someone feel special.
I love teaching my kids about joyfulness, giving and thoughtfulness all in one activity.

Of course all this must happen on very little money- there is no item line in our family budget for Random Acts of Kindness so we really cannot spend a lot.

However, I was out on a date night with That Guy this weekend and while browsing a discount department store (what else would we do on a date?! haha) I saw a 1/4 lb bag of balloons for $2.  The bag of balloons was brightly coloured, I was feeling happy being out with That Guy, and I ended up buying this bag of assorted balloons.
I did not need them for anything. I had no plans for them. I bought them anyways. I don't know what came over me.

On the same date night I was noticing all the packs of commercial and usually licensed Valentines Day cards available for kids to give their classmates.  Then I felt a little bad.  Walter and Audrey do not have classmates with which to exchange over priced, garbage can destined, Valentines Day cards with- was I robbing them of crucial childhood experiences? What if they never got to tell their friends that they care?
Whoa whoa whoa, Rylan.  Calm your emotional self down.  Why can they only tell their friends kind words once a year? And why can they only do it with a Transformer on the front of a paper card? Why on earth could we not do something kind for a few of the special people in our lives?!

So the next morning I blew up a balloon.  I did not tie the end, just kept it pinched between my fingers. Then, using a Sharpie I drew a few hearts on it. When I was done I deflated the balloon.  Then I called Walter over and blew up the balloon again to show him the image I had drawn.
The balloon I drew on

  Right away he wanted to do one too.   So he drew a robot on his balloon. 


Then, because Audrey must do everything Walter does, she wanted to colour a balloon too- I was happy to comply. 

Audrey's drawing

Even That Guy did one.
That Guy is a fan of breakfast...

Then we put our deflated balloons into an envelope, along with some lengths of ribbon so my dad (who we decided was the perfect recipient) could tie up the balloons and affix these reminders of love around his house or office.  Of course, we also added a bit of glitter to the envelope (because, if glitter is ever an option its one I highly recommend taking) and sent off our first Random Acts of Kindness Envelope.

 I still had a bunch of balloons left so we decided to keep up the fun and do a few more for some of the many special and kind people in our lives.

My $2 bag of balloons made up about a dozen envelopes, so about 17 cents each.  Plus the cost of a stamp... about 63 cents.   So a total  cost of  80 cents each, and I really think these will make some people smile.

Happy Monday, gentle readers.  Enjoy your day!!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A note to those who do not homeschool

We home school.

*Pause for people to have shocked reactions* "Why would anyone do that?" "Really? You seemed so normal"

I often get the same questions over and over again when I mention that we home school, so I thought it might be a good idea to address some of these questions and clear away a few stereotypes. Of course, gentle readers, this post is about my family, why we home school and what it means for us. Although I think many of my answers to common questions will be true across the board there will be many families with different feelings about why they chose the path they did.
My happy home schooled kids

First, let's clarify: 

I enjoyed school as a kid
Many people assume that I must have hated going to school as a child when actually the opposite is true. I was very lucky in that I did well academically, never had an issue with bullies and had generally positive experiences with teachers, principals and support staff.  I was active in grade schools and high schools participating in many groups and clubs over the years

I am not anti-school, anti-teacher nor do I believe the government is using our public schools to brainwash our children
Because Walter was attending a public school at the time that we decided to home school people think that I must have had an issue with his school or teacher.  Not at all true.  Walter had a great teacher and Early Childhood Educator in his classroom.  They were very nurturing women who seemed to enjoy their jobs and were good at them. I have no conspiracy theories about public schools, I know far too many public school teachers- I know some of their hearts very well and they would never be out to hurt a child. I know what teachers go through on a day to day basis and even on a year over year basis. They put themselves into their work because they want to be of service to our children, our families and our communities.

We are a "normal" family
Although we do attend church, say our prayers and teach our children the virtues of having a servants heart we are a typical average family.  We do not home school for the purpose of instilling stronger religious values, but of course we are free to say prayer before lunch here at home.   People jump to the conclusion that we must by "hyper- religious", wear prairie dresses and be preparing our children to follow the path of some obscure religious cult; none of that is true.

Some Q & A:
These are some of the most commonly asked questions I hear about home school and the answers that are true to our family.

"Aren't you worried about socialization?"
Ready for this? The answer is a huge resounding "NO!!"  No one who has met my children would ever consider them to be "under socialized". For every person who asks me this I have a few questions to ask you so that you can better reflect on your own question...
1. How many times in school do teachers have to say  "Class time is not for socializing! Talk to your friends after school. School is for learning"?
2. How many hours a day of "socialization" would be enough for you to consider them socialized?
3. Define "socialization".
The idea that we, that our children, can only learn socialization from 30 people in the same birth year and selected randomly by a school board to be together is flat out silly. Socialization is the ability to comfortably interact with fellow members of society. Since when is society only made up of people in our birth year? So why do we believe that segregation in this way is the only way to appropriately interact? When our kids pay the cashier at the grocery store, deposit money at the bank, visit the seniors center, play with my day care children, attend swimming lessons, Sunday school or birthday parties they are getting a much larger sampling of people in our community than if they did the majority of their "socializing" within their public school classroom walls.  There is nothing wrong with the socialization that happens inside a public school, but it certainly does not make my very widely socialized children somehow less for not doing the same.

"They will be socially awkward"
Growing up I knew nothing of home school. I attended public school, as did my sisters, all our friends went to various public schools. All my cousins, my parents before me and all my aunts and uncles were all publicly schooled kids.  So it is entirely true for me to say that 100% of the socially awkward kids I knew growing up went to public school. So why are some home schooled kids shy, or have other social discomforts? Because they are them. Because some people, in general, struggle socially.  Not just home schooled children.  So let's just all stop saying that- its a very narrow minded statement.

"How will they ever make friends?"
Have you ever made a friend through work? Through a mutual friend? At an interest activity? In your neighbourhood? Or are every single one of your friends exclusively those you were in the same classroom with in the first grade?  Likely you can see where I am going with this.  Although people can have beautiful, meaningful, lasting friendships with those they met in school it is outrageous to claim it is the only way to form friendships.  So, "how will they make friends?" Exactly like every other kid out there.

"What do you mean you don't use the curriculum? You must!"
Actually in Ontario there is no requirement for me to utilize the government curriculum.  I did purchase a set of graded workbooks that were formatted to be in line with the curriculum but we do not follow them in any particular way.  Although Walters math and reading skills are in the second grade level his spelling is on par with his age peers in kindergarten. He has progressed in his Science work to late grade two/early grade three but the social studies are still grade one materials.
When we first started out I saw myself "teaching" Walter in a routine very similar to the public schools.  But that just hasn't been how it's worked out.  I have given up trying to battle him into learning with worksheets and spelling reviews and instead let him learn about things because... well learning is awesome. Sometimes we will spend four days in a row learning about bees and then three days straight on subtraction because, for whatever reason, he is fascinated by subtraction.
When we took our kids to the local Lego museum Walter saw a Lego version of the Great Pyramids. He was super interested in them - for about two hours. Then he was done. Why on earth would I insist on spending three weeks on it with him when he is already busy asking about magnetism?

"If you allow him to be a self directed or delight driven learner now how can you expect him to adjust to the requirements of job performance when he is older?"
Firstly, there is a difference between being an adult and being a child. As a child we need to understand that learning is fun, we need to learn how to ask questions and that its okay not to know every answer. In our childhood we need to learn how we learn.
As an adult we need to understand and live with responsibility. We might not like learning how to operate the new computer software (especially when we had no issues with the old software) but we have a responsibility to learn it and use it in order to better perform our job related tasks.
It's not as though on the day my children turn 12 I will suddenly proclaim "You are too old for delight driven learning, you now must use a daily imposed schedule of activities and jobs to be completed".
Right from toddler hood we teach our children about responsibility and that even if you don't like something doesn't mean you don't have to do it.  They must tidy their toys, make their own beds and sweep the floors. They may not like these chores but they do them because they enjoy living in a clean harmonious home and those tasks are required for the desired end result.
Someone might love being a nurse but not love the patient charting that is required. Even a delight driven learner would see that the small inconvenience of charting is required for the delight of nursing. It is necessary for the safety of patients and to assist other health care professionals.
Delight driven learning is not even remotely close to the same thing as entitlement.

"If you're not a certified teacher why do you think you're qualified to home school?"
Let me answer that question with a question... who taught your kids to walk? Talk? The alphabet song? The names of the colours and animals? If you didn't need a teaching degree to set those most important foundations why do you suddenly need one when they are three years old and headed off to junior kindergarten? I  bet not a single one of you, gentle readers, honestly believe the the junior kindergarten curriculum is beyond your academic reach. Nor senior kindergarten. Nor grade one ect.
I admit when we first started out on our journey I was freaked out trying to remember the rules for multiplying and dividing fractions.   Typically I calm myself down in these moments by saying "You only have to be one day ahead".
But the truth is Walter has already come to me with questions I cannot answer.
Real Life Example:
Walter- "Mommy, the cheetah is the fastest animal in the world"
Me- "I don't think that's the case, bud"
Walter- "Well, then what animal is the fastest?"
Me- "well....I feel like it's a falcon or an eagle or something but I'm not sure. Let's go look it up"
(Indeed it was the falcon during a flight dive) We sat down and learned this together.  And Walter thought no less of me for it. I learned something new and most importantly he learned that it's okay not to know, but its really fun to find out.

"You don't want them to go to university?"
I want them to do whatever they want, as long as it does no harm. Do they need a university education to become an acrobat? Nope. Do they need one to become a surgeon? Yup. I want them to go to university if it is a real stepping stone to fulfilling their dreams, not because it has become a societal expectation.
Many (many) people I know who are doing jobs they really love did not go to university to pursue those jobs.  Either they did not attend university at all and opted for co-op or other work immersed options or they attended a specific school or program designed to teach them what they would need for the job in question or they are working at a job that has nothing at all to do with the degree(s) they completed at a post secondary education facility.  I am not saying there is no value in post secondary education.  Nor am I saying I do not want my kids to attend.   I AM saying that more thought needs to go into it than "Of course my child will go to university- everyone should".  As for how to apply for a post secondary education when one is home schooled and has no transcript- well that depends greatly on the school in question.  But, yes, colleges and universities most certainly accept home schooled students.

"How can you fit home schooling into your day along with running a home daycare?"
It really isn't as hard as it sounds. Nor does it take up nearly as much time in a day as going to public school. When I think about Walters Junior Kindergarten teacher and 32 kids I cannot imagine how she got done as much in a day as she did.  Just going out for recces is a process. When 32 kids need to put on snow gear, tie up boots and are struggling to zip zippers with mittened hands there is no possible way to get it all done in less than the 20 allotted minutes for recess. Which means the children understandably start getting ready for outside well before the recess bell rings -they have no choice but to use "class time" for this.  And that same time commitment has to be given when they all come back inside- wet from snow angels and rosy cheeked as they disrobe from their outdoor clothes.
Of course we go outside to play but I have seven kids to get ready, not 32. And when I have something that needs saying I can just say it- I don't have to wait for 32 bodies and voices to settle down first.
We spend roughly 40 minutes a day right now on "school work".  Right after breakfast Walter does his writing. When they daycare children are napping we tackle about half an hour of schooling that requires instructional guidance. At bed time he gets a min of 20 minutes reading time.   The rest of the time, the questions and teachable moments just become part of our day. The daycare children want to know what animal is the fastest too.  They also want to act out a poem or watch a movie about submarines. It's just part of the day.

"You know you're paying for it anyway, right?"
Yes I do.  I also know that my taxes pay for clearing, cleaning and maintaining roads- even though I don't drive.  They even pay to maintain roads my husband has never driven on. And you know what? Doesn't bother me at all.  Much like my children doing chores because it helps our happy home run I pay taxes because it helps my community/ city/ province/ country run, not just because I will directly benefit.

"If you don't do standardized testing how do you know if your children have learned the material?"
Kids sometimes surprise you with what they know. Rarely do they surprise you with what they do not know. When you were teaching your kids the alphabet song did you ever think "I'm pretty sure they have got this... but I should have them write an exam just to be sure"? Of course not! You know if they know it because you are right there with them, listening to them sing it. Hearing them point out letters as they come across them in day to day life.   Same idea here.  If we cover a topic or an idea through home school I know if the kids know it by how they do (or don't) apply it in their lives.  If I think Walter gets fractions but then cant figure out a half cup of flour when baking with me then I know he hasn't grasped it yet.  And that's fine. I don't have to tell him he "failed" in order to have him learn it. We just keep plugging away every time its relevant.

"What if your children decide they want to go to public school once they are a bit older?"
I would talk to them about why they want to go.  If it's because Joe down the street teased him for not going to public school then there is no real need to alter what we are doing.  If its a question of an experience he would like to have then That Guy and I would talk it over and very likely enroll him in the local public school. We would monitor his personal growth and academic performance while he attended (as any parent would) and take it one step at a time.

As an important post script:

No one thinks my kids are strange. That is, until they learn they are home schooled.  Up until they find out everyone sees Walter and Audrey as 100% normal kids.  Sure, sometimes they are loud, or shy, or silly.  Sometimes Walter misreads a word or makes a spelling error. Sometimes Audrey mixes up blue and indigo. But everyone figures that's because Walter is five years old and Audrey is two. But once someone learns they are home schooled suddenly Walter is loud because he is "under socialized" or Audrey mixed up her colours because I never went to teachers college.  It is just as unfair to pin these things on our home schooling as it would be for me to whisper meanly to another parent "That kid doesn't know how to skate very well. But you know... his dad is a dentist so I guess that's why."

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Save 82% on your breakfast costs- DIY instant oatmeal packets

The other day we ran out of Cheerios. We had bought one of those super giant boxes so our kids have been eating them for some time. But, truth be told, I was glad to see it gone.  Frankly its just not a great breakfast food. 

Cold cereal costs too much, doesn't pack enough nutritional punch and leaves my kids asking for snack about 40 minutes after breakfast. 
I decided we should switch to oatmeal.  However, I am a TOTAL wreck in the kitchen so it was unfathomable that I would be able to cook up a pot of oatmeal every morning for the kids before daycare started at 7am.  I liked the idea of the instant oatmeal packages one can buy in the stores but I was not willing to pay for them nor did I want that much sugar and nonsense in my kids diet every morning when I have to spend the whole day with them as they burn it off (ha ha).  

So I figured making my own instant oatmeal packets here at home would be the best solution. I looked up some recipes, did a little trial and error and came up with something that the kids and That Guy really love. It has the nice texture of the store bought packets, tastes great and costs roughly 82% less each week.

A typical box of cereal costs around $5. If myself and That Guy ate none it would feed both my kids for about a week.  Then we must factor in the cost of milk.  In Canada we pay around $4 for 4 liters of milk.  In a given week about half that milk is used on cereal, at least in our house. So it was costing about $7/week for me to feed our two young children breakfast.  But then, they were hungry less than an hour later. 

The oatmeal packets I made up come out to a lot less. 
The oatmeal costs $2
The amount of milk powder I used for the whole recipe would cost about about 50 cents
The brown sugar used for the whole recipe would cost $1.25
The salt I figure everyone has on hand

So all the ingredients for the whole recipe cost about $3.75.  But wait! That feeds both my kids for three weeks. So that works out to $1.25 per week, rather than $7 for Cheerios.  It keeps them full longer and they can make it themselves.  Its a win all the way around.  

Here's how I made my instant oatmeal packets, gentle readers:

Take seven cups of quick oats and set them aside in a large bowl. 

Seven cups of oats
 Take three additional cups of oats and quickly pulse them in a spice grinder until you have an oat powder- this only takes a matter of seconds. This 30% oat powder is how you get that quick cooking creamy oatmeal result.   If you do not have a spice grinder I recommend buying one.  They run about $10 and it will pay for itself in the first month of cereal savings. Add your oat powder to your large bowl.
oat powder
 Next add 1-2 cups of brown sugar to your large bowl (I use two cups for mine. That Guy has a sweet tooth) along with one cup milk powder.  Add two teaspoons of salt and you're set.
All your ingredients in a large bowl
 Mix all the ingredients together well.  I tried to use a wooden spoon but at the end of the day my hands simply did a way better job.   Then divide your mixture into half cup servings, I put ours into resealable sandwich bags.  **One half cup serving feeds both my young children, 5&2. OR the 1/2 cup is one serving for That Guy**
Portioned into half cup servings
 My whole recipe made 21 half cup servings.
21 instant oatmeal packets all ready to go. 
When you're ready to eat add 3/4 cups water and put it in the microwave for 1 minute 45 seconds (I learned the hard way that two minutes makes the oatmeal bubble over)

I also have out for the kids pre- portioned topping options for when they want a little something extra.  We have walnuts, almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, maple syrup, and sprinkles. Of course fresh fruit is always a topping option available to the kids as well (and the option they often choose). 

On a side note: I got a bit of push back from Audrey the first time I tried to serve this to her. She had never come in contact with food of this texture and was not willing to try it. So I pulled out the Eat Anything Weapon.... rainbow sprinkles. 1/2 teaspoon of rainbow sprinkles on anything my kids dont want to eat and suddenly they see it as a fun treat they get to eat. This has been successful with oatmeal, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, pancakes that I *might* have allowed to get a tiny bit too dark... really anything. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Inexpensive DIY headboard for a small space

We have lived in this house just over one year now.  And I still love it as much as I did the day we decided to put in an offer.

However, the love for my house has not blinded me to the fact that its not perfect. Take, for example, our master bedroom.  Our master is actually a tiny bit smaller than Audrey's bedroom. Add in that there are *four* doors in our bedroom (one entrance door, one closet door, one bathroom door and one door onto our rooftop patio), and all those door eat up floor space.  Which means we really don't have a lot of furniture placement options in our bedroom and have to be very thoughtful when choosing our furniture.

When we sold the old house we also sold our old bedroom set because it would not fit in this room.  In fact any traditional headboard would have taken up too much space in our room.   So I had to get a little creative. And, as always, I had to do it on the cheap.

Here is what we did...

We used:
- two sheer curtain tab top panels that were on clearance at JYSK for $5 each (I couldnt have made them myself for that price)
- one curtain rod also from JYSK for just under $10
- two packages of icicle lights on clearance at target, 70%off, paid $10 for both sets
- one dimmer switch a little under $10 from Wal-Mart
- drill, screws, and hooks- on hand
What you will need
 This is the blank space above our bed. Those decorative wall hangings on either side were actually a great deal from Big Lots! Two in a package for $3. The idea was that someone would buy many packages and hang them from the ceiling and each other to make a screen type room diver. I just used the two, attached them to the wall with silver thumb tacks and they are as pretty as can be.
Our lovely blank grey wall
 That Guy installed the curtain rod hardware and a few of the hooks for the lights to hang from.
That Guy being so handy. He's becoming a lot like my first celebrity crush
... Bob Vila.             Not. Even. Kidding. 
 First strand of the lights hung on the hooks.

 Then That Guy spaced the second row a few inches under where the hanging "icicles" ended.
Putting in the second row of hooks. 
 He continued in this way until he had used both set of lights and covered as much wall space as he could.
Okay, I admit, it doesn't look very pretty right now. 
 That Guy also added a nice dimmer switch to the wall on my side of the bed so I wouldn't have to unplug the lights every night and I could adjust the light intensity from soft glow to "I really want to finish this book!"
Dimmer switch
 There are the lights on.  Still not so pretty.  But for the record, taking up zero floor space.

 Then we added the curtains to the curtain rod and hung it on the hardware That Guy had already installed.
Ah! There is the pretty factor I was going for!
And one more shot with the bedroom lights off and just my pretty "headboard" aglow.

Monday, 6 January 2014

How To Make a Budget - my family as an example

Someone asked me the other day about a budget.  She said she had never really used one but could see how one would be of benefit. She mentioned she didn't really know how to make a proper budget and would I mind, please, writing a blog post about it?
I said sure.
So here it is: How To Make a Budget

The very first step is to quit thinking about what you make in Gross (before tax) dollars.  For the huge majority of us (myself being an exclusion because I am self employed and pay my taxes once a year at tax time) we do not take home our gross pay.  First taxes come off.  Along with things like benefits, dues ect. So even though it feels less impressive we need to deal with your take home pay, your Net Income.

An ideal budget looks something like this:

35% on HOUSING
25% on LIVING
10% on SAVINGS

For the sake of round numbers and a modest income lets work with my family's $5,000/mth NET INCOME.
That would mean the break down would look something like this:

$1,750 on HOUSING
$1250 on LIVING
$500 on SAVINGS
Pretty simple right? In theory yes.  But I think the place people start to get confused is when you look at what gets classified into these sections.

If you rent then the housing section includes your monthly rent payment. If you are trying to save for a down payment on a house it might be wise to think about how much housing would cost if you were to own, then set that aside. From the set aside money pay your rent, the remaining will go into a savings account with the goal of down payment.  This is a great, quick way to set aside some money and it also ensures that when you do make that transition to home ownership you are already aware of the real costs and able to live with them.

If you already own then you need to factor the following things into your housing costs:
-mortgage payment
- private mortgage insurance.  Sometimes a mortgage broker will have this paid out in full to the mortgage company at the time of closing, but frequently it is paid alongside your monthly/bi-weekly/weekly mortgage payment.  And, of course, if you put more than 25% down on your mortgage you get to bypass PMI altogether, you smart planner/saver, you!
-property taxes (could be billed annually or alongside your mortgage payments)
-utilities (gas, water and electricity) Even though we only get our water bill quarterly it doesnt make sense for me to not pay it for two months then expect that I would have it in the budget the third,  Instead we look at our bill, divide by three and pay that every month whether we got a bill or not.)
- condo fees
-maintenance/ home improvements  To keep afloat of these costs its best to budget somewhere between 1-2% of your homes purchase price every year.  This will help pay for "big ticket" upgrade and repairs like new windows or furnace but can also be put to use when you want a fresh coat of paint in the dining room or a new deck out back. Keeping up on these things helps maintain the investment you made in your home. It ensures that as you pay down your mortgage you are doing everything in your power to improve your property value which in the end makes you money.
- home insurance


 We bought our house for $161,000 with 5% down. Our PMI was paid in full at the time of closing.  In our region we pay some of the highest property taxes in the country. We got a nice 3.1% interest rate on our mortgage and pay it bi-weekly. Our property taxes are paid bi-weekly also and taken out at the same time as our mortgage.  Together they come to $460 bi-weekly, $920/month.
We pay roughly $400/month in utilities.
This is not a co-op or a condo home so we pay no fees in that regard.
Since we paid $160,000(ish) for our home, if I took 2% of that cost I should plan to spend about $2,400 a year maintaining our home.  That breaks down to $200/month.
- our home insurance cost is $111/month
= $1631.
Keeps me under my $1750 allowance so I declare we can afford our home and move on to the next category. :)


Some people look at the number $750, then they calculate what they are spending every month to make their minimum dept repayments, and for them its over $750. For some people it is way over.
Some people are living so close to the line that they are putting basic monthly expenses (gas, groceries) on their credit cards, using lines of credit or bank overdrafts. Then they pay a huge amount on their "debt repayment" every month and think they have done a good thing.  Problem is two fold here.  One, if you're racking up debt you're really not making much progress when you "pay it off" since you already spent that money. Two, perhaps making such a "huge" debt repayment is whats putting you in a position where you cannot afford to pay cash for your basic needs.

If the minimum payments required on your debts comes out to more than 15% of your income then you need to bring in more money to even that out. Really not too many ways around that unless you want to make pretty massive cuts to expenses elsewhere. Sorry.

If you have debt but your minimum payments cost you less than 15% then boost your repayments.  Max out this 15% until all your debt is gone.

Debt should not take longer than three years to clear.  If your debt plan has you staying in the hole longer than 36 months then I guess its time to take in some sewing, walk some dogs or do what it takes to earn the extra money.

If you have no debts (you WILL get here!!! Stick with it, there is an end in sight I promise!!!) then you get the extra $750 (15%) to put back into your cash flow, you lucky duck.
*That being said, if you have no consumer debts but are still paying a mortgage, reach out to your mortgage company and find out if they have an option of making a lump sum payment once a year toward your principle without penalty-most do. In which case, ask what the maximum allowable lump sum is. Then save your 15% until you have that amount to put down when that time rolls around each year.*


Obviously, as mentioned above, we are still paying a mortgage.  Our debt repayment remains maxed at $750 each month.


If you do not own a car this will include things like bus and cab fare. Perhaps maintenance on a  bicycle (getting around on a bike is a good idea for so many reasons).

If you own a car this will include
- car/lease payments
-parking fees

A few years ago we bought a new car.  Since my husband works in a city other than the one in which we live we needed something more reliable than what we had at the time.
Our car payments are a staggering $430/mth. I know, right?!!?!! Just kills me every month to pay this.
Our car has a bumper to bumper warranty which leaves us responsible for maintenance like oil changes, new windshield wipers and tires.  The warranty happens to expire the same day we are due to make our last very convenient. But that also means that while we have to pay a whopping $430 month we only have to budget $30 for maintenance because anything major that goes wrong is covered right now.
Our car insurance is $87/month.  We keep this low by me not driving at all.  So I don't have to be covered even as an occasional driver. Since I work from home and home school anyways (combined with That Guy having work start times as early as 4 am sometimes, read: I would not be up for driving him in to work just to have the car) this really is not a big sacrifice for us at all.  However, because That Guy works in a different city we do drop about $200/month on gas.  We are lucky to not have to pay parking on any sort of regular basis.
= $747   That brings us right to our max budget.  I am looking forward to next year when the car is all paid off.

But you know what they say... "You either have car payments or car repairs" and I think there is truth in that.  So next year when the car is paid off I won't be taking $430 a month and adding it to our cash flow.  Instead I will increase our maintenance amount to $200/month set aside for repairs and/or savings toward our next new car


This section is for pretty much everything.
-birthday/ special occasion gifts
-new clothes
-calendar holiday events (Easter eggs, Valentines, Halloween candy ect)
-kids allowance
-entertainment **
-church offerings

Ah, you noticed my double asterisks by entertainment, did you? It needs special attention. Many of us may not realize what needs to get lumped into **entertainment**.  This will include all the obvious things, like going to see a movie or the gas to drive up north for a weekend of camping.  But it should also include your cable and internet packages.

- we spend about $150/week to feed ourselves and the day care children= $600/month
- we have no pets
- we pay $50/month for both of us to be covered with our life insurance policy
- one child at a time is enrolled in swimming lessons for a running cost of about $20/month
- Walter is enrolled in Beaver Scouts. The cost is about $240/year if you factor in uniform, trips ect. Although we have to pay it as a lump sum we set aside $20/month for it so that we are able to pay that sum in September. The same will happen when Audrey is old enough for an interest activity.
- we set aside about $20/ week in the event that we require prescriptions that are not fully covered by That Guys health benefits through work, or vision or dental care. $80/month
- we provide our kids with an allowance that is equal to one dollar for every year old they are $7/wk $28/month. We encourage them to think about and use that money when they come to us for a want.  Because they are young and without expenses we guide them to use 40% to pay for things they would ask us for (a smoothie at the mall, for example  or a new game on their Leap Pad). Save 30% for "planned spending" (When Walter turns 16 his dream is to buy a brand new GMC truck with a trailer attached, inside the trailer is a second brand new truck- this is where he enthusiastically puts his planned spending money toward). We encourage 15% to go to Savings to build a foundation for long term savings and 15% for charitable giving.
- We do not have cable TV- we dont miss it at all and I love that I am not paying for my kids to to be bombarded with commercials. Our internet and home phone package is $80/month
- I like to budget $30/week for gifts/calendar events/hobbies/ clothes ect. $120/month.   Some weeks this is much more than we need, but when we need to buy chocolate Easter eggs, or host a bridal shower this is where we can pull from.
- In terms of charities we usually donate our time or talents because we don;t have much money.  We are very active with our Community Care organization, and That Guy and I are active blood donors. I am also active in my church community to offset the fact that we cannot offer much in terms of money to the running of the congregation.
- both That Guy and I have android smart phones.  Because we both live and work in city centers we are able to do without a data package on our phones and simply connect to free wi-fi signals almost everywhere we go.  We have unlimited access to voice and text.  Both our phones together cost $62/month

That brings us about $1060/moth.   Plus a few little "here and there" costs probably bring us closer to $1100/month if I am being very honest.


You must do this.  Yup, even you.  Even though you have a great job and you could never loose it.  Even you who has a ton of debt and you just want to get ahead of it- you must save too.  You need something to fall back on.  And there will come a time when you fall back.  It happens to the best of us.

Save 10% of your income at least. You will need to keep contributing to long term savings for the ...err... long term.  
But some might ask how much they really need in an Emergency Savings account. There really isn't a "right" answer here.
I can tell you, though, how we approach it.  We like to have our $500 deductible for our car insurance, and $500 deductible for our home insurance set aside. On top of that our goal is 2 months living expenses per each member of our family. So for us that's just under $4730/month x 2 months ($9460) x 4 people = $37,840.    Thats how much I would need set aside to feel like I was covered. Obviously I do not have anything close to that. But we work toward it as best we can :)

And there it is, gentle readers, how I made our budget. Hope it can help some of you understand your own expenses vs income.