Sunday, December 21, 2014

Kids and the Holidays

My last few Fun Dollars were spent enjoying the Christmas Season with my kids. I took them both to see the model rail road setup at the Basha's Plaza. Every year, the Sedona Model Railroaders set up their layouts for the community to enjoy for a few weeks leading up to Christmas. I have taken Carrick every year since he was two. This year, Lily is old enough to enjoy the trains too. I gave each of the kids a dollar to put in the donation jar.

I spent some time with Carrick the week before school let out for break, and we each spent a Fun Dollar. I picked him up after school and too him to the Chapel of the Holy Cross for a special time, just him and me. Last year, we both lost our grandmothers. I took him to the Chapel to light a candle for his grandmother and to say a prayer to her. I did the same. It was a reverent time for us to reflect on the wonderful women that we knew and lost. We we each put a dollar in the donation urn for the candles we lit.

And this Friday, we left on a road trip to visit family over the holidays. My last two Fun Dollars was spent at a gas station to buy some sweet treats for the car ride.

Happy Holidays, and don't forget to enter the Fun Dollars New Year's Giveaway!

Donation to the Sedona Model Railroaders- $2.00
Donation to the Chapel of the Holy Cross- $2.00
Treats on the road- $2.00
Balance this pay cycle- $0.00
Happy Spending!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Don't Forget to Enter!

The Fun Dollars New Year's Giveaway is only a few weeks away. There is still time to submit your entry. Check out the previous post of "Fun Dollars New Year's Giveaway" for all the details.

That said, I have been doing a lot of pondering about what I would write for this particular submission if I were entering to win the $100.00

Over the past year of recording and writing about what I spend my money on, I have found several areas of growth with relation to money. The first, and most obvious to me is accountability. Just by writing in this blog week after week, I am holding myself accountable to how much I spend and what I spend it on. Never before have I ever attempted this. Money has always been a taboo. People don't talk about money, they don't divulge how much they make, they don't announce where they spend every penny, they don't reveal sources of income sometimes...Money is a very touchy subject. But by opening up about my spending, I have found a great respect for money that I never had before.

The respect that I hold for our family budget has increased because of this accountability and awareness. Now that we have two kids, and not just a preschooler and an infant, every penny counts. Lily is in school, she eats real food, she gets her clothes dirty, all of that adds up. If I just go out spending as if our budget is just a magic fluff ball, then I am screwing up the income framework of three other human beings. It really matters that I adhere to our family budget. I am so grateful for the growth I have experienced as a result of paying attention to what and where I spend.

The other area of change where growth has happened is  with my attitude about others. I have spent more of my personal money on others this year than I have in previous years. We're not talking about tithing for church, that is a separate part of the family budget. No, what I am talking about is feeling the generosity of spirit to share my "extra" with others. Before this year, I would hold on to every penny and every dollar, and find a way to spend it on myself. But this year, I have given money to others, spent money on others, and "provided" for others more so than in the past. I use the word "provided" to cover several examples. I hosted a clothing swap and spent $80.00 on refreshments and drinks for others. I used my Fun Dollars on multiple occasions to buy gifts for others. I even took my family out to eat more often using Fun Dollars; which brings me to my last area of growth...


Before this year I had a dark and dangerous love affair with fast food. I would do anything to rub four quarters together and get a a dollar chicken sandwich. Since I have started paying attention to my spending, I have drastically reduced my fast food spending. Instead of it being a weekly thing, it is now a once every-other-month kind of thing (if that). I don't feel like I am sneaking around in the shadows, trying to get my next fix of french fries. Instead, I am spending more on better quality food. Taking my family to India Palace or Golden Dragon once a week feels so much better than the frequent trips I would make to Wendy's or Burger King. (Now, Domino's is still on my love list...some things don't least not yet....maybe in another year.....)

I am so grateful to all of you who have shared this journey in spending with me. I look forward to the next year to see what Fun Dollars will bring my way. I am so excited to give $100.00 to a lucky reader in the New Year.

Given the Holiday schedule of our family, I will be posting what I spend from now until the New Year, but it will be bare bones. I get to take care of two little munchkins for two weeks, and I want to focus on them over the Holiday Break. Thank you for following me through the year on Fun Dollars. Lots of Love to you in 2015, and Happy Spending!

Christmas Giveaway Money- $10.00 (money in the pot- $70.00)
Cookies at Safeway- $2.00
Lunch at Golden Dragon- $11.00
Money paid to Carrick for helping out- $2.00
Earrings and leggings at Cato- $20.00
Sleep mask at Beall's Outlet- $6.00
Chips at Circle K- $1.00
Balance this pay cycle- $6.00

Happy Spending!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Firehouse and Flatiron

What do the words firehouse and flatiron have in common? They are both local eating establishments that I patronized for the first time this past Monday.

About a month ago, when I hosted a clothing swap at my house, my best friend and I made plans to take a Girls' Day Out and head up the hill to Jerome. Jerome is a historic town precariously perched on the side of Mingus Mountain. It's Arizona's Mile High City. Ravaged by fire twice in its history, this old copper mining community still holds an air of Old West about it. It's not a place that is especially child-friendly, so we don't take family trips there. But, since my friend and I both have one child in kindergarten, and one child that will ride in a stroller, we decided to make the trek up the hill with our youngest kids while the elders were in school.

My friend sent me a text message on the morning of the long-expected trip to see if I wanted to make a stop at Firehouse Doughnuts as part of our day out. Firehouse Doughnuts is a recently-opened bakery next to Schoolhouse Restaurant in Cottonwood, and owned by the same person. It was on the way to Jerome. We had heard rave reviews about this place and since we were out enjoying the day, we figured, why not? The parking lot was tiny, but the inside space was generous. There was even a space just for kids to play. They had painted some walls with chalkboard paint, and there was evidence of tiny artists all over. Lily enjoyed playing with another little girl there.

The doughnuts were divided into "regular" and gourmet. The regular doughnuts had choices like caramel long john, glazed, apple fritter and pink glaze with sprinkles. The gourmet side and choices like chocolate/chocolate/chocolate (chocolate cake with chocolate chips and chocolate icing), s'more and Oreo crumble. In between the two types of doughnuts were the gluten free chocolates and confections.

I opted to get the most for my Fun Dollars and bought 4 regular doughnuts. I knew Lily would want the pink with sprinkles, so put one of those in my box. I also chose an apple fritter, a chocolate creme and a chocolate glazed. I am almost ashamed to admit this, but, I sat there in the cafe, revelling in my day out, and I ate two of the four doughnuts. (I opened Pandora's box with this one. Ever since the NYBD doughnuts last month, I have had more doughnuts in 4 weeks than I have in 4 years!)

After sugaring myself up, and adding to my morning caffeine intake with a decaf (yes, there is still caffeine in it), we drove up the hill to Jerome. We made our first stop at Nellie Bly, the kaleidoscope shop. This shop is the largest brick and mortar store of kaleidoscopes in the world. I purchased some tear-drop prisms to make window light-catchers for some lovely ladies for their Christmas presents. (I also stopped by the Bead Garden in Sedona the next day to pick up some crystals to add to the window light-catchers.) 

After stopping into several shops with our strollers, and burning off the doughnut calories, we headed to the Flatiron. The new owner, Amy, bought the Flatiron almost two years ago, and is a friend of ours. We keep in touch mostly on facebook because she's a busy gal. When I first moved to Arizona, we all used to work at the same restaurant in Sedona. Since then she has bought a business, and my friend and I have had two kids each. Life changes us all, but it was so nice to reconnect with such a loving soul. She made the best pastrami sandwich ever. I was more than happy to give her a $20.00 for the sandwich, iced tea, and tip. She was so kind to Lily, as she banged on the table, rolled around on the floor, and asked for more raspberries. Tiny though it may be, the Flatiron has now earned a coveted place on "Rachael's List of Family-friendly Dining".

After another store or two after lunch, we packed up the strollers and merchandise, and purses, and babies, and diaper bags, and everything we stuffed into our strollers, and headed back down the hill. With the curvy road, our babies were soon lulled asleep in the back seat. What a wonderful day out with someone I enjoy spending time with, but don't get to see that often. Life with two children adds some element of craziness to both of our busy schedules, so making time just for us girls to hang out gave us both something we needed: sanity! 

Cheers to a Girl's Day Out!

Doughnuts at Firehouse Doughnuts- $5.00
Light-catchers at Nellie Bly- $12.00
Lunch at Flatiron- $20.00
Beads at Bead Garden to go with the light-catchers- $5.00
Balance this pay cycle- $58.00

Happy Spending!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

After Church Memories

When I was a kid, we went to church every Sunday. Unless we were puking, or had pink eye, we were at church. That's the way it was at our house because my dad also happened to be the pastor of the church we went to.

Every Sunday, my sister and I would go to Sunday School, then sit through church, then wait with mom and dad until the church was empty. By that time we were starving. (It never occurred to me or my parents to pack snacks for us for after church. Maybe that's why I'm anal-retentive about having snacks for the kids.) It would feel like forever sometimes, but when we finally did pull out of the parking lot of the Camp Point United Methodist Church, we knew that lunch wasn't very far away.

Every Sunday, we would go out to eat after church. My dad served two churches at the time, and Sundays were a work day for him. The last thing he and mom wanted to do was make lunch after an action-packed morning. Rarely did we ever just go home and make lunch. Our after church fare came most frequently from one of three places; Larry's, The Paloma Restaurant, or Stockyard Inn. (And when I say "Stockyard Inn", I mean it was literally at a place where farmers bought and sold livestock.)

Larry's was always a good choice because out of the three I mentioned, it was the closest to the church. It was two blocks away; so close we could walk there, and sometimes we did. Larry's was where the Sunday School class "The Builders" would meet once a month (or maybe it was every other month. I don't remember, it was a very long time ago.) But they would invite the pastor and his family out to their meeting, and we would enjoy a lunch buffet. After eating fried chicken, mashed potatoes, melon balls, corn, green beans, white bread rolls, and noodles, thick, homemade noodles with chicken, my sister and I would go out in the hallway where the coats were hung and play while the meeting portion of the lunch was held.

Other Sundays, we would go to the Paloma Restaurant. It was two towns down the road on highway 24, which meant it was about a ten minute drive. Paloma had absolutely the best chicken and noodles than any of the other places to eat. It had a home-town menu, just like Larry's, but the crowd there was a little different. It consisted mostly of the folks who lived in Paloma and Coatsburg, the two towns in our school system lying to the west of Camp Point.

That's the Paloma Restaurant hiding behind the bank.

But my favorite place out of the three regular restaurants we chose for our after church fare, was the Stockyard Inn. Lying halfway between Camp Point and Coatsburg, the Stockyard Inn sat all by itself right next to the stalls and paddocks where live stock was bought and sold. Farming was (and still is) a huge industry in this area of Illinois, and this local eatery attracted an after church crowd on Sundays, and an agricultural crowd during the week. The woman who managed it (maybe she owned it too, I don't know), wore her hair in a short beehive. I loved her because after we were all finished eating, she would always bring a treat to the table for my sister and me. Sometimes it was a full-sized Kit-Kat bar, sometimes it was a Tootsie Pop. Whatever sweetness she chose to share with us, we were always grateful. I loved eating there so much that I asked my parents to take me there (and our extended family, since they were all in town ) the night before my confirmation, for dinner .

The road to where the Stockyard Inn used to sit.

Ages and ages have passed since I ate at these beloved establishments. As far as I know, the Paloma Restaurant is still thriving, Larry's changed its name to Marcella's, and the Stockyard Inn closed its doors probably close to a decade ago if not longer.

I thought back to those places last week, as I was sitting at India Palace with my own family after church. Corey and I don't always go out to eat on Sundays, but its more likely to happen on the days we go to church. We mostly end up going to India Palace or Golden Dragon, a far cry from the fried chicken and white dinner rolls of my youth. We are making our own family traditions, and giving the kids their own after church memories.  The one thing that my childhood dining and my childrens' experience have in common is family. Sunday is family day, and we spend it together. Whether we are eating out, or going to a birthday party, or hiking, whatever we do, we share it together. I am glad to chip in a few Fun Dollars every now and then to give some time to my family and some memories to my kids.

Lunch at India Palace- $11.00
Cookie Dough and Glittery Purple Binder at Safeway- $6.00
Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel split with Corey- $5.00
Balance this pay cycle- $0.00
Happy Spending!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fun Dollars New Year's Giveaway!!!!

It's here! The time has come for you Fun Dollars readers to put on your thinking caps. I have been setting aside Fun Dollars each pay cycle since September for this event: The Fun Dollars New Year's Giveaway.

I started this blog almost a year ago, on the last week of the year in 2013. I  had attempted being a blogger before, but not on a very committed level. I started three other blogs before this one, only one of which ever had more than 100 hits (My Ten Mommy Minutes). I won't even tell what the names are of the other blogs because I'm almost ashamed of them. They're quite ridiculous.

During that week between Christmas and New Year's, I some reflection on the past year. The thing that I enjoyed most was spending Fun Dollars, but I knew that I had cheated a lot on my Fun Dollars. I would sneak purchases onto the debit card and hope Corey didn't see them on the bank statement. I wouldn't spend thousands of dollars, but $5.00 here and there for Zainey's or Burger King, $20.00 for a shirt a Beall's Outlet, or even a $3.00 for a chocolate bar at Natural Grocers adds up.  I decided the time had come to retrain myself on my relationship with the free money I received regularly.

I took very seriously the gift that Corey had given me in the Fun Dollars system.  I wanted to be a better steward of that gift. Even though I could spend my $100.00 however I wanted to, it didn't excuse me in any way from doing wasteful things with my money, or from cheating on the system. Even though no one else was looking over my shoulder in 2013, the way that I spent my Fun Dollars was still in my own conscience. I knew I had cheated. I knew I had made stupid purchases. I also knew I had made some smart purchases. But I wanted to set the record straight and be totally accountable for what I spent (and not cheat, too).

So, to celebrate the end of the first year of the Fun Dollars Blog, I want to jump-start someone else with their own Fun Dollars. Since $100.00 is the amount that Corey and I get each pay cycle, that is the amount I want to give to a lucky reader.

How do you win the Fun Dollars?

Please submit to me before January 1, 2015 a short explanation about what you have learned about money this year. (Length isn't really a factor here, long or short. I'm looking more at what you have to say than the number of words that you say it in.) What were your weak points? Where are you strong? Has your relationship with money changed at all in the past year? Do you have a new job? Do you have debt? Do you have your own version of a Fun Dollars system?

I am looking for honesty and growth with your relationship with money. Tell me your story, and you might have $100.00 to start the New Year. Submit your entry with your name and email address to:
Subject: Giveaway

Happy Spending, and Good Luck!

Christmas Presents at Safeway and Wal-Mart- $17.00
Balance this pay cycle- $21.00