Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Gift of Fun Dollars

Part of the fun of having Fun Dollars is being able to share and give to others. I am empowered to spread the love without dipping into our bank account.

For Christmas I gave all my parent's siblings (4 Uncles and one Aunt) a magnet from Shutterfly with pictures of our kids on them. I gave all the great-grandparents calendars from Shutterfly. I sent the magnets for my dad's side of the family along with the calendar for his parents to my grandparents' apartment in their assisted living home. I wanted Grandma to hand out the cards with the magnets in them to all the relatives (which also included my sister and her new husband) during the family Christmas gathering since we could not be there. When everyone opened their card, my grandma exclaimed, "I want one!" Even though she has a calendar with several pictures of the kids and our family for each month, she still wanted a small thing to put on her mini-fridge.

My grandma is too precious. She wrote me a letter after Christmas explaining what she wanted and that she would gladly pay for it. Now, just so you know, her income at the assisted living center (for her and grandpa to split) is $90 each month. I get more than twice that in Fun Dollars. I wrote her back saying that I would happily order her a magnet and not to worry about paying me for it. So I did just that. It was on sale at Shutterfly, and with shipping and tax, it came out to $8.00.

This week, I also had the rare opportunity to pay it forward. Last week, I had the hankerin' for an afternoon Coca-Cola from Circle K. As I was paying, I saw that the girl behind me had exactly the same thing, so I quietly told the cashier to put hers on with mine. It's not often that I can do that (in secret) and it felt nice to buy something for a total stranger. Even though it was carbonated high fructose corn syrup, the act still felt joyful.

And finally, I sent a birthday gift card from Bath and Body works to a friend of mine back in Illinois. I used $10 Fun Dollars and $5 from our bank account. I cleared this one ahead of time with my hubby. There are several friends that I like to send gift cards too, and he agreed that he would match (using our checking account) up to half the amount of the gifts cards if it were under $20. Since we just finished with Christmas, and two birthdays for our kids, I kept the amount to $15 and footed 10 of that. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to buy a birthday present for someone I care about with my own money.

Empowerment is what Fun Dollars is all about. Empowerment to make the decision to buy, empowerment to brighten people's day, empowerment to do things you might not otherwise do. Buying is not a bad thing, as long as it is within your rmeans. In our family we just carve out our means and stay within that.

Magnet on Shutterfly- $8.00
2 Sodas at Circle K- $2.00
Bath and Body Works Gift card- $10.00

Balance this pay cycle- $5.00

Happy Spending!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Breakfast with Friends

Over the course of the past few years, a group of moms in my community have created a very active network. They plan meet ups that range from park visits to clothing swaps, wine tastings to trail hikes. We do it all. One of the most recent meet ups was breakfast in the canyon at a historic (and newly remodeled) country store. They sell wine, beer, energy drinks, local produce, candy, pastries, as well as breakfast and lunch from their full kitchen. The new owners are actually a couple who are a part of our parenting network. So not only are we patronizing a locally owned and historic business, we are also patronizing the business of friends when we plan meet ups there.

Yesterday was an exceptionally enjoyable meet up. There were four of us moms who showed up. Since the outside patio area was under construction, it was a good thing we planned a meet up for when our oldest children were in school. All of us who came have two children, and all of our oldest ones are the same age, 4 going on 5 this year. We arrived with just our youngest in tow yesterday, which made our meet up more manageable. Usually, the patio is available, and since it's outside, the kids can run and play. (It's also fenced in, so it's pretty safe.) But since we were hanging out inside, the smaller group was ideal.

One of the other perks of going to this particular country store is that the wife who owns it is gluten intolerant. Under the old management, there were no gluten free options on the menu. Now that she is in the picture, there is a nice variety of gluten free as well as regular options. I chose to try their gluten free waffles yesterday. They were made with blue corn and came with a mixed berry compote. It was heaven! I could barely tell there was corn in the waffles, and with the berries (and whipped cream) I didn't need syrup or anything! I spent $12.00 on the waffles and a large coffee. I shared a relaxing breakfast out with some of my favorite ladies at a local (and friend-owned) business. This was Fun Dollars well spent.

Blue corn waffles and a large coffee at Indian Gardens- $12.00

Balance this pay cycle- $24.00

Happy Spending!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Big Boy's Birthday

Tomorrow we are celebrating my son's 5th birthday. We bought him a bike to commemerate this step into "big kid" hood. We also have two other gifts we bought him during the Christmas season that we decided to hang on to till his birthday.

I went out today and spotted a snorkel and goggle set at the outlet store. I could not resist. He has talked about a snorkel since August. He thinks that bendy straw are snorels and I strongly cautioned him NOT to use one as such. So because we have already spent close to $100 on a bike, cake, and decorations for the party, I thought I'd spring for this present with Fun Dollars.

$8.00 for a snorkel at the outlet store

Balance this Pay cycle- $36.00

Happy Spending!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Night Fun

SO, for Friday nigh fun with Fun Dollars.....

I dropped $8.00 on Bogle Chardonnay at Safeway. I usually don't like chardonnay, but, as I had it the other night with chicken, and liked it, I decided to give it a second shot to see if it really was all that...without chicken.

I was diligent with making supper tonight and created a healthy and delicious stir fry to go with my chardonnay purchase. (Let it be public knowledge that my hubby and I finished it off together before tonight's post.) This is part of what makes Fun Dollars fun :)

So, after our family meeting, a generous portion of stir fry, and the latest episode of Community, our Domino's order arrived at our doorstep. I am now down another $8.00 O' Fun.

Bogle Chardonnay- $8.00
Domino's- $8.00

Balance this pay cycle- $44.00

Happy Spending!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Rare Treat

Yesterday I had the chance to go shopping with only one kiddo. To be honest, I don't really "shop" that much. When I do, I go to the outlet stores. I have a hard time spending money on clothes. I don't know why. I even majored in fashion merchandising, so you'd think I'd be like a fashionista, but I'm not. I'm far too practical with my purchases. I analyze my wardrobe, "Does this go with what already exists in my closet? Does it flatter my figure? Am I comfortable spending this amount on this piece of clothing?" On and on and on...

I decided that since I was out and about running errands yesterday (cashing a pay check and getting fun dollars as part of that) I would check out a new store that just opened up next to Staples. Urban Gypsies used to be located next to the movie theater and was too cramped for me to shop with a stroller. This new location has ample room. I was surprised that their prices were better than I remembered from the last time I went in. I ended up getting something from the "vintage" rack. I would hardly call it vintage, but the price was right and it fit my curves just right. Also, it has a V-neck so I can nurse with this top on as well. I spent $8.00 on the top.

After that I treated myself to an iced caramel mocha for $3.00

My shopping experience made me realize that I need to branch out and step outside my comfort zone. So I am going to think differently with how and where I spend my fun dollars. There is a new cafe in town I want to check out, an upscale consignment store I want to shop in, and a new tea store that has piqued my curiosity. Enough with the Burger King and Wendy's, these fun dollars are going somewhere local!

Top at Urban Gypsies- $8.00
Caramel Mocha at Starbucks-$3.00

Balance this pay cycle- $60.00

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Week, New Dollars

Starting on Sunday, Corey and I each received our next installment of Fun Dollars. Even though the banks were not open, we still get them on Sunday. It's the beginning of the week. What we do is track what we spend (if there are any purchases made) before we actually cash his paycheck. We just deduct that amount from what we get back in cash when we do make it to the bank on a pay week. This is our newest amendment to the Fun Dollars system.

I spent my remaining Fun Dollar from the last pay cycle at Family Dollar. We were getting decorations for our son's birthday party and I saw a small crossword book. Nerdy, I know, but I do enjoy the easy crosswords. It's my "zone out" thing. I don't do Candy Crush.

On Sunday evening, Corey and I were both famished after an evening lecture that spanned the dinner hour. I offered to spring for a Brooklyn style Domino's pizza. That set me back $8.00. Everything was half price, so I thought I'd treat us all to some pizza.

I also owed my Mary Kay lady $11.00 for some makeup. So, before we even cashed the paycheck, I was already down $19.00. Add to that a MLK Day lunch out with the family in Flagstaff, and I was now down another $10.00. I did en joy the lunch, and it was a much better expenditure of money than going to Burger King.

You might be wondering how all these purchases are all even dollar amounts. One of our "rules" to Fun Dollars is that we save our change. So every 6 months, we cash in our coins that we saved from our Fun Dollar purchases and we put them in the bank. It only adds up to about $50 every 6 months or so, but hey, it's almost like free money. We can pay our Internet bill with that. Every purchase gets rounded up when I report it. The makeup was only $10.70, but when I account for it to deduct from the pending pay check, I will count it as $11.00.

So this afternoon, it's off to the bank. I will only take out $171. Corey gets $90 (he contributed $10.00 to our Olive Garden lunch out), I get $70, and our son gets $10.

I am also going to set aside $20.00 for next week's lunch out with my mama friends.

Domino's- $8.00
Olive Garden- $10.00
Mary Kay makeup- $11.00

Balance this pay cycle- $71.00

Happy Spending!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

End of Week 2

Yesterday I went on another hunt for a new coffee mug. It's still on my "I want" list, so I took my fun dollars to one of the few places to shop in town, Beall's Outlet. I get an extra 15% of on Fridays with my points card. I went back to the housewares section, and it looked like they had nothing new in since I hunted last week. Then, lo and behold, on the higher shelf, hidden in the shadows, I saw new coffee mug.

As I told a friend of mine recently, I am a sucker for anything with the Eiffel Tower on it. This mug had a vintage-looking woman on it with the Eiffel Tower in the background. After my discount, I dropped a whopping $3.00 on it.

Next I headed to New Frontiers, our local "natural" market. We had friends coming over and I wanted to get a fresh catch at the meat counter. I brought home a thick cut of mahi mahi. I didn't buy the mahi with fun dollars. But I did buy dessert with m remaining fun dollars. $6.00 bought a tub of caramel machiato gellato.

coffee mug at Beall's $3.00
gellato at New Frontiers $6.00

Balance this pay cycle $1.00

Happy Spending!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bogle Pinot Noir 2012

I realized that we were out of deli meat for Carrick's lunch tomorrow. So I packed up the kids and took them for an afternoon run to Basha's. I had to pick up Corey's pants at the tailor anyway. Our family doesn't usually shop at Basha's, and I wanted a change of venue for our excursion.

I had the craving for lamb earlier this week, so I got what was on sale as well as a head of organic brocoli to make with it. Then I thought, "If I'm going to make a nice meal tonight, why not get a bottle of wine to go with it? I knew that a Pinot Noir would taste best with the lamb. Pinot also happens to be towards the lower end of my like list when it comes to wine. I much more prefer a good wine blend, an ancient vine Zinfandel, or a bold Cabernet Sauvingon.

I really wanted to make a nice dinner, since the house was clean. So very rarely does Corey get to come home to a clean house as well as a cooked meal. Normally he makes the food. He's just better at it. So determined was I to make this magical evening, that I used 12 fun dollars to buy a Pinot Noir to pair with the lamb. I bought it full out knowing it's not my favorite. I bought it with the intention to share it as well. That is one of the perks of fun dollars, sharing. I get to choose when and how I share my fun dollars. Sometimes that means letting others imbibe in the bottle of wine I purchased.

Sometimes spending fun dollars is more about the experience than the actual purchase. If I had it my way, I'd be sipping on Cline Ancient Vine Zinfandel right now. Instead, I am eating salsa that Corey brought home from Javelina Cantina. He didn't eat till 4:30 this afternoon. So he wasn't even hungry for lamb when he got home. He did, however eat one little lamb steak with a glass of the Bogle Pinot Noir. He agreed, they paired well together. Hearing that made it worth it all.

Bogle Pinot Noir $12.00
Small Wendy's Frosty $2.00

Balance this pay cycle $10.00

Happy Spending!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Movie Day for Mommy

I forgot to include my $3.00 Americano from Starbucks when we went grocery shopping yesterday. Plans for morning coffee didn't happen, so a mid-afternoon cuppa happened instead.

Today I did go to the movie I was planning to see last week. Thankfully the Sedona 6 was still showing Saving Mr. Banks (I love movies that tell the 'behind the story' story, like Julie & Julia). Since the movie is on its third or fourth week in the theaters, there were only 4 other bodies sharing the theater with me today. I took Lily with me and she napped the entire time. A matinee by myself with a sleeping baby was $13.00 worth of pure heaven. I used my stashed 'earmark' twenty for this one.

Adding in the EarMark money- +$20.00
Movie, popcorn and loyalty cup beverage- $13.00
Grande Americano at Safeway Starbucks- $3.00

Balance for this pay cycle $24.00

Happy Spending!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Dinner Gift

At the end of week one, I look back and think, "This is an improvement from previous weeks with fun dollars." To an outsider, who hasn't been with me on my journey thus far, it may look a little more bleak than that. But the fact that I had even half my fun dollars left by Saturday night is a huge accomplishment! Normally, I burn through the fun dollars way faster than this.

Last night, my gift to myself was to contribute to dinner-to-go from Plaza Bonita. We were not only at the end of our week when food is normally low anyway, but at the end of a week of not really grocery shopping. Furthermore, this week I was sick, and the house was a mess, so I spent my time cleaning rather than cooking on Saturday. With more than half my fun dollars remaining, I told Corey I would put up $20 fun dollars for supper. He ordered, I picked it up, and with just enough for a tip, I left two twenty dollars bills on the receipt. (Corey paid me back a 20 spot when I got home.)

I so very much appreciated having a hot, delicious dinner with my family that didn't involve a late-night trip to the grocery store. I would dub this purchase much worthier of my fun dollars than Burger King, even though it is still yet another food purchase.

Today at the grocery store I bought gluten free pretzels for a snack for me as well as a bouquet of purple alstromeria lillies. It has been a long time since I've bought flowers. I needed something on my kitchen table now that the Holiday season is over.

$20.00 for Plaza Bonita dinner
$11.00 on Gluten Free pretzels and Lillies at the grocery store

Balance this pay cycle $26.00

Happy Spending!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

End of Week 1


Another $9.00 goes to Burger King. At the end of the week, which was an irregular "holiday" week, our pantry and fridge were somewhat bare. We didn't do a regular grocery shopping this week for several reasons. Suffice it to say, we still haven't got our groove back after the holidays.

On the up side, $57 is a whole lot more than I usually have left after week 1. It's stretching my fun dollars into week 2 that's the challenge most of the time.

Balance for this pay cycle $57.

Happy Spending!

Friday, January 10, 2014


Today I was reminded of a valuable lesson as a consumer, Satisfaction is (almost) everything. Today after taking Lily to the Dr. for her one year check up, I stopped into Beall's Outlet store. In Sedona it's one of the few places to shop that isn't an expensive boutique or grocery store. Lily had fallen asleep in her car seat and I wanted to take advantage of her sleep time while I could.

I go to Beall's on Friday because people under 50 get an extra 15% off. So, if I'm going to shop there, why not wait till I know I will get an automatic discount? I was on a mission. At the top of my "I Want" list is a To-Go coffee mug and a "mine at home" coffee mug. Both of mine broke in the month of December.

As I looked through the shelves of housewares, I came across several options for both kinds of mugs. As I held them, looked at them, clicked the lids, and tested the "spillability" I wasn't quite sold on any of them. Some at home mugs had teeny tiny handles, some were too top heavy, and therefore easily spilled by table bumps or little hands. Some of the To-Go mugs had lids that were hard to remove, or hard to click open. Other just had ugly designs. I refuse to settle. These are things I will use every day. I want to feel a sense of satisfaction when I wrap my lips around them and sip the nectar of morning.

Call it picky, but I call it not wasting my fun dollars. I want to be sure that I will truly enjoy and appreciate what I spent my money on. I think that somehow this links in to America's mindset of disposability, "Well, if I don't like it, I can just get a new one." I might throw my money away on food, but when it comes to personal things like clothing or accessories I am very judicious about what I buy. I don't buy something that I am not truly in love with. I call that "settling". I don't settle. I hunt. I search until that perfect purchase walks into my shopping cart and comes home with me.

So, because I was not completely satisfied with what I saw today, I passed on the purchase. I'll wait till next Friday after a new shipment comes in and I still get my 15% off.

Moving right along, I was suuuuuuper hungry by the time we were done with the Dr. appointment and a quick browse through Beall's. So, instead of going home to make something, I swung through Taco Bell/KFC again. When I got to the drive through the line was backed up past the intercom. I waited there for 5 minutes, which in hungryville is like a week. When I heard the car in front of me say, "I'm not close enough to see the menu," I lost it. Fuming at their lack of capability to keep the line moving I took the side route to exit the black hole of fun dollars. "I'll make it faster at home myself!" I said out loud as I waited to turn left onto 89A.

I was NOT satisfied, so they did NOT get my fun dollars.

Every dollar we spend is a vote. Where do you vote? What do you vote for?

Balance this pay cycle $66.00

Happy Spending!

Food, Glorious Food!

On Wednesday, as I mentioned, I was sick. Yesterday, Thursday, I was recovering. My fever had passed but m body was still slow-moving and I would get the occasional chills. I had very little appetite and even less desire to be in the kitchen cooking. My solution? Take m fun dollars to the new Taco Bell/KFC that just reopened.

Yeah, I'm not proud of it, but I didn't want to go into a grocery store looking like death warmed over just to get a side of mashed potatoes. Not to mention my son was home from school yesterday (he goes MWF) and I didn't want to take two kids into a store for one little thing while I still felt weak. The drive through offered the simple solution. My son even chose to use his fun dollars on a bean burrito with a side of nacho cheese, his favorite.

Ever since going through the drive through yesterday, I realized just how much I depend on fun dollars to get me meals. For as long as I can remember, I have avoided being in the kitchen. It has only been in recent years that I started to find confidence and maybe even a hint of enjoyment while creating meals. But when I get so run down, like I was yesterday, the only thing I can think of is, "Someone else, PLEASE make me some food!!!!" I notice this happening when I get caught up doing housework too. I could fold and organize and put away laundry all day long. In fact, some days I do that. When that happens, I find myself shouting to the rooftops, "FOOD, NOW!!!!" I get so wrapped up in what I am doing that I don't plan ahead to stop and make food before I get hungry. Then I use the crutch of fun dollars to get something off the dollar menu.

I think when I ask myself, "Where did my 2013 fun dollars go?" I can safely answer that with "into the toilet."

So what can I do to ensure a more responsible expenditure of my fun dollars? Maybe I can start a sub-category of fun dollars that is just for food, and when it runs out, it's gone until next pay period. Or I can be proactive with my eating habits instead of waiting until my hunger pains get the better of me. Or a combination of both. One thing is for certain, I need to cut back on my emergency eating expenditures so that I can have more money to spread to more worthy purchases than dollar menu items.

$2.00 at Taco Bell/KFC for a side of mashed potatoes
Balance remaining this pay cycle $66.00

Happy Spending!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

No Movie

I passed on the movie yesterday so that I could spend the day on the couch. I caught whatever bug was going through town.

Balance this pay cycle is still $68.

Happy Spending!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


So, after 2013 was gone, I looked back and thought, "What did I do with $2600? What do I have to show for it?" That is the primary reason for blogging about what I do with my fun dollars. I want to be able to look back and see what exactly I spent my money on. Have you ever tried doing that? It's harder that it sounds, keeping track of expenses. Never mind keeping track of what is necessary to pay each month, like rent/mortgage, groceries, gas, phone bills; those can all be tracked. But have you ever kept track of what you spend "just for fun"?

How much do you spend on eating out, whether it's McDonald's or Cheesecake Factory? How much do you spend on clothes, just shopping for fun? How much on alcohol? How many bottles of wine or drafts at the pub? I invite you, as you journey with me on my spending to also keep track of what you spend. Save receipts, or jot it down in a notebook, or a calendar and see what you are spending on. Don't change or judge it, just observe it.

Today, after stopping by the bank, this is what I bought:

$12.00 at Walgreen's on:
-A three pack of chap stick
-Three rolls of clearance Christmas wrapping paper
-a box of Christmas lights (also on clearance)
-candy for the movie tomorrow (I plan to save some cash on the popcorn)
-and a beverage for the road while running errands.

I also set aside $20 to jump start my earmark fund. I'm thinking of saving up for something fun for my birthday.

Balance for this pay cycle- $68

Happy Spending!

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Week, New Dollars

So today is payday for the Sheridans. Normally, this means I pick up a check or two (sometimes there is a separate commission check) and deposit them in the bank. When I deposit, I ask for $210 cash back. Corey and I each receive $100.00 and Carrick, our son, puts $5 if the remaining $10 in his pocket. I give him his balance the next week. I can't have a 5-year-old running around with $10, it would be too easily lost, or spent.

Today is an exception, we have family still visiting from the holidays, and Corey finally has a real day off. He has worked almost straight through two weeks because of a move of venue at one of the galleries he manages. He said he was absolutely not setting foot in work today. I told him I would be okay with waiting a day before getting fun dollars to put in my wallet.

Having family in town changes a little bit how we spend our fun dollars. Things that would normally fall under the heading of fun dollars are now fair game, like a trip to get frozen yogurt, or buying a bottle of wine. It's the holidays and we are feeding extra people. We don't do this all the time, so we do have separate "rules for spending".

So, tomorrow, when I deposit our checks, and get cash back, I will ask for my $100 with a $40 in 10's and 5's. This helps me earmark or set aside money for things on my "I want" list. I keep a running list of things that come up that I think, "I want that" and I write it down. Sometimes I save up for a month or two in this reserve style until I can buy what is on my "I want" list. I don't like to spend all of my money all at once, so that's why I save up for bigger things. One of the things I have earmarked for this go-round is a matinee at the movie theater. I want to see a show that neither Carrick nor Corey would want to see, so I am taking myself out, with my fun dollars.

Until next time,

Happy Spending!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Why Fun Dollars?

"So, what's the point?" you may ask. Why should I care about what you spend your money on? Isn't the whole point of fun dollars is no one can tell you how to spend them or criticize your purchases?

Deep down inside, I think we all wish we could just go out and spend money with no consequences. Some people are shopaholics, or they buy just for the thrill of it. Some people save so tightly that they never give themselves the pleasure of a purchase. Other people might have such a limited income that they wouldn't dare spend a dime on themselves. While others still have so much disposable income that an allowance for personal spending seems laughable. I want to share my fun dollars experience to show that no matter what your income level, no matter what your spending pattern, there is a joy to be found within the spending of fun dollars.

There is another reason I want to be totally transparent with how I spend my fun dollars. Even though what I purchase is my business, I still feel a sense of guilt about some ways I spend my money. I find myself justifying a trip to Wendy's because I "had fun dollars". Having fun dollars doesn't excuse me from making decisions that contradict a personal value. I really want to teach healthy eating habits to my children, and if I go to Wendy's every time I don't feel like cooking, what message does that send them? This is just a specific example of a personal value that I betray sometimes because I have fun dollars. This is one of many facets to be examined during my year of public spending.

And lastly, some of the creativity and personal growth I have experienced in the past year and a half of using the fun dollars system comes from when I don't spend. When I think about choices I've made, ideas I've come up with, and new ways of doing things, just because I either ran out of fun dollars, or I didn't want to spend what money I did have, the list is too plentiful to name. And that's most of the fun for me. It's the appreciation for what I have, the anticipation of wanting something, and making it happen, as well as the challenge to think outside the box that makes fun dollars truly "Fun".

Happy Spending :)