Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Better Budgeting

After a recent overview of where my money has gone so far this year, I vowed to change the way I spent my money. So much of it has gone to food, sweets and treats. Some of those purchases were well worth the money, others, sadly were impulse buys, mostly at fast food places. A night out at Elote, or Plaza Bonita is so much more satisfying than Taco Bell or Domino's.

The categories I spent my Fun Dollars on were as follows: Food (including sweets, treats, restaurants, soda, fast food), Appearance (clothes, makeup, accessories, personal care items), Entertainment (movies, popcorn, tickets and entry fees), Specialty Beverages (alcohol, tea and coffee), and Miscellaneous items (stuff that didn't fall into any of these categories.) After adding up the categories, I examined their outcomes and what that meant for my spending habits. Let's put it this way, if I added up Appearance, Entertainment, Specialty Beverages, and Miscellaneous, they would equal what I spent on Food. I want to change that.

On Monday of this week, I made a summer action plan for the kids and me this summer. I wrote down everything we are already committed to, like swim lessons, visiting family, birthday parties, and the summer movie series. Then I looked at how much each of these would cost us in Fun Dollars. For example, every week that we go to the Summer Movie Series, Carrick is going to want to get popcorn, and I will probably want a little myself. So I budgeted out $5.00 for him, and $7.00 for me.

I made this bulletin board from a picture frame we had not put up yet after moving.
I covered it in contact paper from the Dollar Tree, and cut out different colored
construction paper to write the words on. I affixed squares of contact paper to the
backs of the words so that I can tape and re-tape them. Every day, I choose two or
three activities from the collection I have written down and put them on the board.
Also, Carrick gets to choose whether his picture goes on the "dishes" side
or the "laundry" side of the board. Then whichever he chooses, I find a way
for him to help out with that activity. Yesterday, he chose "dishes" and I had
him collect the stray dishes from around the house.
Corey and I also had a discussion about Carrick starting to do chores around the house. I incorporated this element into my Summer Action Plan. Since he only gets $5.00 every pay cycle, he won't be able to buy his own popcorn every week at the movies. Having him help out around the house makes it worth it to me to buy his popcorn on the off week, or to give him a few dollars to spend at a garage sale.

As for me, I plan on cutting way back on what I spend on food, at least for the summer. I think by cutting out fast food alone, I will cut that number in half. So far, I haven't spent fast food money since the last pay cycle. I cut out fast food for a while earlier this year, and I can do it again.

One category that I was sad that I hadn't spent any money on was "gifts". I want to buy things for other people more often (not just toys for the kids, or a bottle of wine for Corey.) So, my first purchase this pay cycle was a book on Shutterfly that I had a coupon for. I don't know why, but for some reason, Safeway printed out two Shutterfly coupons that I've been hanging on to (every time someone checks out at Safeway, they pint out coupons). They both expired on Memorial Day, so, I used one of them this weekend. It was for a 20-page hard-cover book...for free! All I paid for was the shipping and tax. It cost nine and change, so it rounds up to $10.00 Fun Dollars. I won't say who it's for, until they receive it, then I can share more about that purchase.

Looking back and observing behavior is one of the best ways to change your habits, whether it's keeping a food journal, a workout log, or a drinking diary. If you really want to change the way you do something, observe it first. Collect data without judgement. Then, after you have a clear outline of what you actually do, you are better equipped to decide just how you want to change it. That's been the premise of this blog from the beginning
. I am excited that I have stuck with recording my spending long enough to have a clear outline of data to work with. Now the real change can start happening.

Happy Spending!

20-page hard-cover book from Shutterfly- $10.00

Balance this pay cycle- $90.00

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pre-Summer Sweet Stuff

Carrick's last day of Daycare/preschool was this week. I felt the impending summer with him being home all day like a G-force on a roller coaster. It is exciting, and scary at the same time. Somehow I have to entertain/feed/shuttle around two children for two months? I have him enrolled in swim lessons, but that's like 30 minutes out of our day. I'm going to have to schedule play dates, pool outings, hiking excursions and library time. Also, the new splash pad at the park around the corner is set to be finished sometime next week. That will make for some awesome park play! I think keeping the kids out of the house and busy is the way to go.

In celebration/preparation for Carrick being home full time, I took Lily out for ice cream, just us girls. For the next two months, all of my ice cream budget will have to include Carrick, so I pounced on the opportunity to pay for just one ice cream cone while he was still occupied at school.

I also bought a chocolate bar this week, and ate the whole thing before he got home, careful to dispose of the wrapper. If he caught sight of the evidence, he would feel betrayed that I didn't share with him. Sometimes, mama needs some chocolate, and I don't want to share. Selfish, yeah, maybe, but also, he has enough energy without adding chocolate into the mix.

I also found myself running around a little bit this week. And on Wednesday, several errands had to be run. Even though we live in town now, and stopping by the house for a snack in between running around is doable, I didn't have the time to do that. My errands were time-sensitive and I found myself getting peckish. Since one of my errands took me to Safeway, I bought a coconut water and two Odwalla bars (one for me and one for Lily. She ate half and I saved the rest for when I picked up Carrick at school.)

So, all those little items kept me going this week, as well as hit a place within me that needed attention. Somehow, eating chocolate helped with the feeling of sadness about the fire. The ice cream was a bonding experience with my daughter. The Odwalla bars and coconut water, well, it was as basic as needing food and drink, but it still served a purpose.

I also have to be diligent now that summer is here not to over indulge the kids in too much sweet stuff. Fruit-based popsicles will be a staple around here. I like to do home-made popsicles in the ice cube tray. They are smaller so that Lily can enjoy them without dripping it all over the house. Also, I might try my hand at making my own granola/power bars. Don't get me wrong we will go out for the occasional ice cream. I just need to make sure it's not an all the time thing. Living in a place that feels like vacation all the time triggers something in me that makes it feel okay to go out for ice cream whenever we feel like it. I am looking forward to the challenge of creating healthy and kid-friendly snacks. It should make all the play time that much more enjoyable.

Ice cream at Baskin-Robbins- $4.00
Chocolate bar at Natural Grocers- $3.00
Coconut water and 2 Odwalla bars at Safeway- $5.00

Balance this pay cycle-$0.00

Happy Spending!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Putting it into Perspective

Last week, Carrick chose to spend his $5.00 Fun Dollars at his school's Summer Bash. They have a bouncy house, a bouncy slide, face painting and hair color spraying. The $5.00 gets each child a pass to do all of that. They serve fro-yo and pizza, shaved ice and popcorn for purchase. And in the gym, they set up booths for parents to visit and sign their children up for summer activities. (We are doing swim lessons for sure, and karate is in discussion.)

Carrick ran around, playing with all of his friends from school. I followed Lily around as she was too small for either bouncy experience. And I hung out with my mama friends. (This was literally right after the clothing swap, so most of them just headed right over after the party.) 

I had stashed my last $20.00 Fun Dollars in my back pocket before getting out of the car to go into the Summer Bash. I had debated about whether or not to even bring it with me. I had already spent the rest of my Fun Dollars on refreshments for the clothing swap, and if I spent too much more at the Bash, it would be another 11 days through the pay cycle before I would get a new installment. But I decided to bring it, just in case Carrick got hungry and wanted pizza or a snack. 

Thankfully, Corey joined us, and generously bought us all pizza with his own Fun Dollars. When I got back to the car after the Bash was over, I checked in my pocket for my $20.00 so that I could put it back in my secret "no spending" spot in my car. It was not in any of my pockets. I checked my purse, I even had Carrick check his own pockets, nothing. It wasn't even in the stroller. I felt a sick, sinking feeling in my gut. Darn it! $20.00 just gone! Well, I hope that whoever found it enjoyed it. Fun Dollars for somebody else.

When I got home, I told Corey about it. He said the same thing I did, "You gotta look at it like this: you made some one else very happy." Yeah, but small comfort, ya know? We had to run out and grab something for dinner at the store, so we all went together after dropping off Corey's car at home. When we arrived in the parking lot at Basha's, he pulled out a $20.00 from his wallet and said, "Don't spend it all in one place."

What a sweet guy, sharing his own Fun Dollars. I gave him one of the bottles of wine that we didn't drink at the party later that week as a thank you. 

So this week, I took the kids up to Flagstaff on a Fun Day trip. I had to get the radiator flushed at the Toyota Dealership, and they love going there with me. They have cookies, popcorn, chips, crackers, and a play area for kids. It's basically another Summer Bash as far as they're concerned. I also decided to take them to the Dollar Tree to pick out some summer activities for outside play. We picked up sidewalk chalk, bubbles, washable markers, Carrick insisted on getting a plastic dolphin so that it could play with his sharks. (I tried to talk him into a squirt gun, but he wouldn't have it. The dolphin had to be his!) Each kiddo also got a sand bucket with a shovel to dig in the yard too. 

I also picked up a couple essentials for me as well. I needed a lighter for candles and incense, as well as mini bottles of hand sanitizer. (The small bottle I had been refilling got lost in the move and I don't like being with out it.) All said, I spent $8.00 Fun Dollars at Dollar Tree.

After that, we enjoyed ourselves at the dealership, then headed home. As we were driving through the canyon on 89A, I stopped to get water at the "watering hole", and marveled at the view as I twisted and wound my way towards Sedona. It is easy to take something for granted when it's there all the time, so I make a point to look and enjoy the views in the canyon every time I cruise through there. It's a good thing too. As we approached the city limits of Sedona, we pulled over to let a fire truck go by. It never dawned on me that what I saw on my way back home would be the last time I would look upon it with its natural beauty still in tact. 

Sadly, a fire started at Slide Rock Sate Park. It grew from 400+ acres on Tuesday to 4500+ acres this morning. Some friends of ours had to evacuate their home in the canyon. I sent her clothes for one of her boys as well as the clothes left over from the clothing swap. My heart is just broken over the devastation that has been caused by one little spark. People forced to flee their homes, leaving much if not everything behind. Animals' habitats threatened and destroyed. And the most beautiful and magical places I have ever seen, places that have sung to my soul, now blackened and burned. These wondrous parts of creation won't look the way they did as I remember them for thousands of years, after Mother Nature has grown new trees and the forest reclaims its ground. 

Kinda puts $20.00 into perspective. 

Next Monday, when we get new Fun Dollars, I want to find out what is still needed by way of help for the residents who were displaced, for the fire fighters courageously battling the inferno, and for the city of Seodna as a whole. What can I do? How can I be of service? How can my Fun Dollars make a difference?

Right now, as an immediate action, you can drop off cases of bottled water, sports drinks and granola/protein bars at the Sedona Fire station located in West Sedona. I took some supplies there yesterday (using grocery money) and the women there accepting the donations were so grateful. I also asked the manager at Basha's to set out a donation bin for customers to place purchased goods that can be taken to the fire station.  I do feel like I have done something to help. It's a good start, but I want to continue to do what I can. I love Sedona, and I feel her pain as she undergoes this metamorphosis. What does it mean for tourism? For the economy? For the natural beauty she once had? Only time will tell.

$8.00 for Summer Goodies at Dollar Tree

Balance this pay cycle- $12.00

Happy Spending.

Monday, May 19, 2014


It may have gone unnoticed by some, and for others, it may have flown like a red flag. At the end of the last pay cycle, I still had some cash left over that went unreported.

The day before Mother's Day, one of my ideas for "family support" at church came to fruition. I am a member of Church of the Red Rocks, a UCC community perched atop a hill overlooking Sedona. As my late mother-in-law said after her first visit there (before we were members), "If you get bored with the sermon, you can always look out the window." To her, hearing God's word while staring at a lofty view of the Red Rocks was the best place to go to church ever. After her passing last summer, we decided to join the church, and every Sunday, as I look out onto the Red Rocks, I think of her and feel her there.

Shortly after our joining the church, I was approached by the Sunday School coordinator. She wanted to brainstorm with me on ideas for their church to show support and encourage the younger families in Sedona. One of the ideas I shared with her was a parents' night out. After proposing several of our brainstorm ideas to a committee, they agree that a "Parents' Afternoon Out" would be their first step. If that was a success, they could move on to the more challenging evening time for a "night out".

They thought that scheduling it the day before Mother's Day would be good for parents and easily marketed. As it turned out, it wasn't. I created a facebook event page and made it open invitation, yet everyone was otherwise occupied that specific weekend. I felt desperate to find somebody who would be able to drop their kids off so that mine would not be the only ones there. I very much wanted to encourage these older folks who planned and took time out of their Saturday to host this event. I wanted to see the efforts of my church reap some benefit.

I noticed that my best friend had not responded to the invitation on facebook the day before the event, so I sent her a message asking her if she planned to drop off her son. She replied that she hadn't planned on it, but that she would. And then something magical happened. My best friend and I realized that we would be completely child-free to hang out together! What a Mother's Day treat! She had been stressed out about her closet for a few weeks leading up to this; she is pregnant and needs to add in her maternity clothes and take out her winter clothes. So we planned to work on her closet together for the afternoon while the kids played at church.

I will admit, I was a little nervous about leaving Lily there. She still suffers from "stranger danger" and cries if anyone but a familiar face holds her. I brought a CD with her favorite song to play as well as her stroller. It's her "safe zone". During the two hours that we were gone, not only did Lily not cry, but the boys played nicely AND we were able to completely reorganize my best friend's closet. We stopped at Circle K for drinks and snacks before hand. It was $4.00 Fun Dollars well spent.

The icing on the cake was when we picked up the kids. Hearing a glowing report from the women there put my nervous mom-heart at ease. They were so thrilled to have been able to play with the kids that it didn't matter that there were only three of them there. They were so excited and spurred on by the success of this parent's time that they want to host another one. And all of my friends who couldn't make it have shared with me their enthusiasm for another one that they can actually attend. But that's not even the best part! As we left from picking up the kids, the coordinator handed me a stack of movie pass vouchers to hand out to all of my friends who couldn't make it. That means that me and my friends all get to enjoy the Summer Movies for Kids at the Harkins Theater for free! So every Friday morning, at 9:00 a.m. I will have a movie date with my kiddos.

From the seeds planted by my mother-in-law about Church of the Red Rocks to a girl's day out to summer movies with the kids, one word, one thought can have a huge effect. And that's how $4.00 Fun Dollars created one of the best Mother's Day weekends I can remember.

Happy Spending!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Double Dipping

Many of you know that the Sheridan family made an important life decision recently. After examining our financial landscape, paying our taxes and observing the housing market, we decided that the time was right for us to sell our house. Our realtor suggested that we moved out so that we could get things repaired, painted, cleaned and landscaped to fetch the highest dollar. We followed his advice and rented a place across town that was $1100 cheaper than our mortgage. (And just last Friday, we did get an offer for the highest dollar we estimated we could get.)

During the moving process, I cleared out a good deal of our old Sheridan inventory. But there was one element of the cleansing process of de-cluttering that I just couldn't do, my clothes. Even though I went shopping for new clothes back in February and cleared out a few things, my summer wardrobe looked pretty bleak. Even though April and May were colder than January and February it seems, I still kept my eye on the horizon of summer time.

Back in February I also ran a segment on Fun Dollars about the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: The First Three Habits and how they relate to Fun Dollars. Keeping the lesson of "Begin with the End in Mind" I held onto the parts of my wardrobe that no longer served me as I prepared to move. I knew that after everything was settled into the new home, they would come in handy. Beginning With the End in Mind means having enough foresight to know what you want your outcome to be. My desired outcome was a whole new wardrobe for summer, and somehow, between these cast-off clothes and my Fun Dollars, I was going to make that happen.

Now that we were moved, and our house was put together, I could now invite people over. What better way to hang out with my girlfriends as well as get a whole new wardrobe than by hosting a clothing swap? Some of you might not be familiar with the concept of a clothing swap. Allow me to enlighten you:

Imagine going through your closet and picking out the stuff that you're no longer in love with; jeans that are too big, shoes that you bought ten years ago, a scarf that your grandma gave you, a skirt that needs a little stitching, a blouse that is missing one button that you never seem to have time to fix, a shirt that used to be your favorite but you've grown out of it... all of them prime candidates for a clothing swap. Now imagine your friends doing the exact same thing in their closets. And lastly, pretend you all get together to drink some wine, lay out your unwanted clothes and accessories, and then....poof! The magic happens!

You suddenly find yourself trying on that dress that your friend used to wear that you just loved, or walking around in a pair of heels you never knew you wanted. With your friends there to say, "Oh, that looks amazing on you!" or "You need to take that one home," you think, "Now this is shopping!" That's what a clothing swap is. You get to try clothes on that you would not normally buy in the store, let alone take into the dressing room. After swearing off shorts for almost a decade, I found myself prancing around in a pair of patchwork Gap shorts. I would never have bought them at the store no matter how on clearance they were. But because they were free, I figured, "why not try them out?"

Clothing swaps are such a great way to step out of your fashion box that you might find yourself trapped in. With new colors, cuts, textures, and sizes to choose from, the possibilities are endless. Yesterday as my girlfriends and I sat around sipping our vino and eating our fresh berries and cheesecake, we had a chance to just slow down and enjoy our "shopping" experience. Lily played with the three other children who came with their mamas, and no one had to worry about pushing a stroller around a mall with a crying and bored child. Everyone left with "new" things to call their own and to integrate into their own closets.

I spent $80.00Fun Dollars on refreshments ($40.00 of that was on a six-pack of wine at Safeway. If you buy 6 bottles of any alcohol, you get an extra 10% off. Some bottles were already 50% off and the discount compounded!) And for that $80.00 Fun Dollars I spent on wine, Fiji water and food, I received that new summer wardrobe I had been pining over. So, in a way, I made my Fun Dollars count for two things; I financed a girls' day out as well as new clothes for me. I in no way feel sad about dropping 4/5 of my Fun Dollars for this pay cycle on the clothing swap. What I got back in return was priceless.

6 bottles of wine, 2 six-packs of Fiji waters, a big box of raspberries and blueberries, and a multi-flavor cheesecake at Safeway- $80.00

Just to give you an idea of what else this $80.00 bought me: 3 skirts, one pair of shorts, 4 dresses, 5 nice shirts, 4 casual shirts, one pair of dress pants, 3 workout tops (like sports bras), one pair of nike workout capris, 2 jackets, 2 sweaters, one pool cover-up, one scarf and one hat. I don't think that $80.00 would have got me that much stuff even at Goodwill, and I certainly could not have drank wine while shopping ;)

A Special Thanks to Sarah of the Sedona Trolley and Allie of Allie Ollie for donating to this clothing swap. 

Balance this pay cycle- $20.00

Happy Spending!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Of Mothers and Money

Happy Mother's Day

My mother taught me to shop at thrift stores. To hunt for something special and pay less for it. To find treasures at garage sales. To appreciate window shopping, look, but not necessarily have to buy. She taught me that lady bugs are worth 10 cents, and Praying Mantises are worth $1.00 if I caught them and put them in the garden to eat the "yucky" bugs. She set up star charts and chore charts so that I could earn prizes or money by doing house work. She paid me extra to hang clothes on the line. She taught me that nature is free and composting is awesome. I love you, mom.

My dearly-departed Mother-in-law taught me that shopping can be fun when you do it with someone you love. That things don't have to be fancy or expensive to be cool. I learned how to buy for others with her, because that's what she was good at. It didn't matter if it was a birthday, or Christmas, or April 29th, if you see something that someone might like, and you can swing it, why not give a gift to someone else? She taught me that God loves a cheerful giver, and that no one else gave more than Christ. I learned that communication about finances makes for a happier marriage from her. I love you, Gina, and miss you every day.

My old-fashioned grandma, to whom I still write letters and stamp them and send them in the mail, taught me that rummage sales rock. That it's okay to leave the price tag on when you give a gift, and that sometimes it's cool to splurge on a glittery, purple bracelet. She taught me that you can give more Christmas presents on a fixed income when you shop second-hand, and that everyone needs sox for Christmas. I learned about being savvy with money from her. Somehow, even on her very limited income managed to give all her kids and grand kids $20.00 each for Christmas for as long as I can remember. I learned that through planning and budgeting, anything is possible. I love you, Grandma Helen.

My dearly-departed Grandma taught me that loving and supporting your husband can be the best job in the world, and when he takes care of your needs, it doesn't matter where the money comes from or who makes more. I learned that moving doesn't have to be scary, and sometimes, downsizing and simplifying doesn't mean less, but that less is more. I learned that partnership with money is a two-way street, and that love wins in the end. I love you, Grandma Mary, your memory lives on.

My one-and-only Aunt taught me that spending money on vacations is not only fun, but necessary. She taught me that having a career and money doesn't make you greedy or evil, but rather dedicated and passionate. I learned about what is possible when you tighten the belt to live more modestly, and that luxury can be found in anything, and doesn't necessarily mean bigger or more expensive. I love you, Aunt Peggy.

And from my two sisters, who are not mothers yet, but who are Aunties to my children...

From my Sister-in-law, I learned that sometimes debt can be negotiable, and that holding fast in your beliefs can make you wealthier than money ever can. She taught me that bartering and trade are not only a skill, but can be a way of life. I learned about living by your wits and trusting your instincts instead of depending solely on money to get by. I love you, Kella.

And from my own dear sister, the only blood sibling I have in this entire world, I learned that it's okay to take time finding a job you really care about, that at the end of the day, a paycheck is a paycheck. She taught me that letting your partner pick up a bill every now and then is not a mark of failure, but of unconditional trust. She taught me that having one car is not the end of the world, but a chance to compromise, communicate and appreciate your own ride when you finally get one. And that no matter where you live, shared money can make that place a beautiful home. I love you, Sarah, my Diassah.

From each of these beautiful, talented, savvy, and courageous women, I have learned something about money, that everyone has their own relationship with it, that there is always room for growth and improvement, that we all make financial mistakes, and that there is plenty to go around, no matter where you live or who you are. But above all else, with each of them, I was reflected back love. In the end, that's all that matters. Fun Dollars will come and go, but without love, it's all just paper in the pocket.

Happy Mother's Day, and Happy Spending.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Every year, the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village hosts a spectacular Cinco de Mayo celebration. They have Flamenco dancers, Mariachi bands, Aztec dancers, and the annual Chili Cook-off. It is an event not to be missed. There are parents, grandparents, children, dogs, strollers, people from all over, and lots of food.

While the Chili Cook-off is a delicious activity for the adults to participate in, there are also things for the children to enjoy as well. Face painting, balloon animals, and pinatas are among the favorites. In years past, Carrick has been very vocal about not wanting face painting. I have no idea what it's all about, but he has never expressed an interest in having his skin tattooed with paint.

But this year, Carrick was very much excited about having a shark drawn on him. He didn't want it on his face, though, just an arm tattoo. He an his best friend have gone to the Cinco de Mayo festival every year (except last year, when his BF moved away, but now he's back.) His little buddy wanted an arm tattoo as well. I told his mom, my BF that I would spring for a pair of tattoos for the boys. Technically the face painting is free, but tips are smiled upon.

While we were waiting in line for the boys to get painted, I slipped away to grab a Negro Modelo from the outside bar. The margaritas were $8.00, and I didn't want to drop that many Fun Dollars on just one drink, so beer it was. We had so much fun listening to the live band play salsa music while we waited. Cold beer, best friends, and a beautiful day, couldn't have planned a better Cinco de Mayo celebration. (By the way, it was on Saturday the 3rd, not actually the 5th of May.) Lily even had fun making friends with a young girl who was eating with her family next to the face painting line.

Tlaquepaque is a quaint shopping center in the heart of Sedona, located where hwy 179 crosses Oak Creek in the city. If you are ever in Sedona, Tlaquepaque is not to be missed.  There is always something to see or do there. Visit their calendar online:

Tips for "tattoos"- $2.00
Negro Modelo- $5.00

Balance this pay cycle- $9.00

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Starbucks and Sushi

I tried something new with our grocery money last week. Instead of holding on to receipts or trying to calculate in our heads how much we have spent out of our grocery budget, I tried using cash. What a concept! We already do it with Fun Dollars, guaranteeing that we only spend what we have budgeted for, why not apply it to groceries?

For the most part, it worked. There was one day that I went to Bell's Outlet and bought some mats for the floors. One of our bath mats did not survive the move, and our kitchen was in dire need of a mat in front of the sink. I spent a little over $20.00 on three memory foam floor mats, and congratulated myself for not spending any extra outside our budget.

*sigh* Corey was not a fan of this purchase. Even though I had the best of intentions with not spending extra money, I was mis-allocating our food money. I kind of see why he wasn't thrilled about it. It didn't really give us a true sense of whether or not our grocery system or budget needs to be tweaked. I think we will need several more weeks of observation on this to find a sweet spot.

On one of my "cash and carry" grocery trips last week, something glistening in the fluorescent light of Safeway caught my eye. It felt like one of those dream sequences out of a movie. Everything got foggy, except for that thing I was looking at. Everything else faded away. I was drawn to it. I had to have it. Oh boy....another coffee mug.

See, I have this very intimate relationships with my coffee mugs. I don't like to drink out of just any old mug. Even when I visit my family in Illinois, at each person's house, I go through their stash of mugs until I find one that speaks to me to drink my morning coffee. Up until now, I have been satisfied with the french woman and Eiffel Tower on my coffee mug (a Fun Dollar Purchase from several months ago). We were morning pals, she and I. But this one at the Starbucks in Safeway, was my coffee soul mate.

The asymmetrical design, the metallic hot fudge color, the fact that it holds the magical amount of 12 oz (Miss French only holds 10oz.). I held my breath as I turned the mug over. Expecting a price tag of $20.00, I almost dropped it when I saw it as a clearance item for $5.59!!!

Needless to say, I now have coffee every morning with my soul mate mug. Miss French is great for an afternoon tea, but this new mug is just more satisfying to drink from when it comes to coffee. I so rarely make snap decisions like that with my Fun Dollars, but in my heart of hearts, I knew it to be a good purchase.

Okay, enough gushing. At the end of the week of my grocery experiment, I had $7.00 left over. I also had $15.00 Fun Dollars I was willing to commit to a night out. We all went out for sushi at Szechuan. Since the kids aren't too big on sushi (Carrick pulls the shrimp out of the tempura roll, and Lily eats the left overs) we also ordered garlic green beans. Corey also chipped in with his Fun Dollars.

I will be completely honest, I miscounted what was left over in grocery and Fun Dollars and I thought I had $32.00 total instead of $22.00 total. I found this out before we ordered, counting the cash under the table. I quietly told Corey that we would be dining out with less money than expected. We could have got up and left, since we hadn't ordered yet,  or just ordered one sushi and one entree.

He didn't have to, but he put in his own Fun Dollars so that we could order whatever we wanted (which was only one more sushi roll than what we would have ordered otherwise.) I was especially appreciative of this gesture because I knew he wasn't thrilled with me using the grocery money for a non-grocery purchase earlier that week. Also it had been my idea to eat out in the first place. I guess that's why we are soul mates. We can forgive and acknowledge that the other person isn't perfect.

This was a much more enjoyable trip to Szechuan than the last time. Lily was much more manageable, and Corey didn't have to dash off to an appointment. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to spend some time with my soul mate.

Coffee Mug at Starbucks- $6.00
Sushi at Szechuann-$15.00

Balance this pay cycle-$16.00

Thursday, May 1, 2014


I felt very uninspired by my recent purchases. Feeling a sense of loss over Dad's departure, as well as officially saying goodbye to our old house, I wanted to do anything but write about it. Who wants to hear about my Arby's purchase before dad got on the plane? Not me. And our dinner that last night he was here was the first time I remember Lily screaming in a restaurant. She was beyond manageable. It was not a night I look back on fondly. I left the tip, and dad picked up the check.

I know myself well enough that I planned for this feeling ahead of time. I went straight to Safeway after I dropped him off at the airport and bought a six pack of Cinnamon Angry Orchard Hard Cider. There was also a brick of Queso Blanco Velveta on clearance, and I decided as a backup, cheese dip would do just fine. I knew that Dad's leaving was not only the last of my distractions for how I really felt about selling our house, but it was also the departure of a visitor, which always puts me down in the dumps for at least 24 hours. I figured that just one hard cider would help take the edge off...and it did.

Some would say pray and feel better, others would say do yoga, or take a walk. Others might tell me to play some of my favorite music, or spend some time in a favorite place. None of these could fill the void of a double loss. (and I wasn't going to use the hard cider for that, either.) It helped a little bit, but for some things, I have to call in the heavy artillery.

For the past 2 weeks, I had been busy and distracted from my feelings about moving because I spent my time "being useful". I was the one who had to let in the painters, I was the one who had to run back to pay the cleaners, I was the one on whom getting the house ready for sale was dependant. I felt important. I felt like I had a purpose. Now that we are down to managing just one house, the busy usefulness is gone. Enter Dad.

Dad was here for the past week, and that meant companionship. I had another adult to talk to during the day. I could process a little bit my feelings about what it meant to me to sell our exquisite abode and move to a place with fake wood linoleum on the floors. But now that he's gone, the raw wound of moving has had the band-aid ripped off, and it's exposed.

Add on top of that the frustration of finding out that after calling our power service and "opting out" of getting a smart meter installed, only to discover that they put one on anyway, I was at my emotional boiling point this morning. And if that wasn't enough for my nervous system to handle, the city started work on the sewer lines on our street. I ran to the bathroom after getting off the phone with APS to complain about the smart meter only to find my toilets and showers explosively gurgling all over the bathroom floors!

I haven't felt this stressed out in months, folks. I am usually a "take things in stride" kinda gal, but all of this lumped together was just too much for me. Corey and I actually argued last night. We rarely argue, ever. But my nerves were shot. So throwing these "utility" issues on top of that, and this gal needed to just get out, and use that heavy artillery I was talking about...


I was heading down 89A towards McDonald's. I was determined to feel better. I don't usually stress eat, but then again, I have never sold a house, either. As I passed the first block after turning onto the highway, I passed Picazzo's on the left. I had a dream about their gluten free chocolate chip skillet cookie with organic vanilla ice cream, but quickly dismissed it. I just wanted a cheap fix, and McDonald's had that. I pulled into Micky D's and sighed. "Niccole is going to read this," I thought. "I should go and see her, and just spend the money on a cookie. I'll feel so much better about stress eating if it's gluten free and organic, right?"

What really made me feel better wasn't downing the entire cookie and two scoops of ice cream. It was the unloading of my feelings and frustrations to my best friend. The guy whose section I was sitting in even gave Niccole my table just so she could be my server and we could talk more. (Thank you, EZ.) In the end, a compassionate listening ear is far better therapy than sugar, or beer, or anything else. I needed to be reminded of that.

At the end of my dessert devouring, I declared, "$10 Fun Dollars well spent." She asked me, "Are you going to write about this?" I smiled, "Oh yes." It's just what I needed to feel inspired again.

Angry Orchard Cinnful Apple Cider and Cheese dip at Safeway- $16.00
Arby's before dad's flight-$10.00
Tip at Szechuan on Dad's last night visiting- $10.00
Gluten free chocolate chip cookie with organic vanilla ice cream at Picazzo's-$10.00

Balance this pay cycle- $37.00

P.S. We are back up to $100.00 this pay cycle. We decided it was worth it to be controlled and successful with our budget.

Happy Spending!