Spring Pillows

I made winter pillows, and shared one of them here, but never shared the rest of them. They were okay in person, but they didn’t photograph well and I wasn’t all that enthused. Winter- and Christmas especially – are tough for me, decor wise, because I don’t really love to decorate with the warm, rich reds and other colors that the season envokes. But as soon as Valentine’s Day is over, I feel like I can move to a winterized version of Spring. I’m not saying that I’m busting out the flip flops and pastels – we’ve got at least two more months of snowstorms ahead of us in Colorado, but sprinkled among beautiful days – but I think that after mid-February, it’s perfectly acceptable to start adding touches of Spring.

Spring Pillows

I’ve been loving navy for the last year. Loving it. And luckily for me, navy mixes really well with my signature green. But I hadn’t yet brought any navy into our main living area – all of the bedrooms have a touch of navy, but our main floor was missing out. The kids and I were at Target on Friday getting soap and paper towels and as I passed the table linens, I saw these clearanced geometric, navy blue and white napkins. At less than $5 for 4, I threw them in my cart faster than you can say “No Spending January is over”. Then I saw these gray, yellow and khaki napkins at the same price – thought of my BFF Emily and her khaki couch and walls but recent love for gray and yellow and a conversation we recently had about how she wasn’t sure she could mix the colors and threw those in my cart to make spring pillow covers for her. Every non-skiing Coloradoan just needs a little happy in February to get them through to Spring, I think.

And one naptime later, I had six pillow covers whipped up, and just enough color to hint at sunnier days ahead.

Indigo and Green pillow covers

My mom gifted me those green, linen Pottery Barn pillow covers 4 years ago when we bought our white couch as a “Couch Warming Present”. Every time I switch out pillows, those work and they stay. I love how a good, classic basic can work for so many years depending on what you pair it with. Will I still love the geometric navy pillow covers next Spring? Probably not. But at $2 a pillow cover, I can just donate them and move on.

Indigo and Yellow pillow covers

So that’s the latest over here – just a hint of spring on the sectional with some updated pillow covers. What projects have you taken on lately?

Organizing Kids Art and Craft Supplies

A little over a week ago I declared our house an organizational nightmare. And this was after I spent all of January organizing crap. I’m choosing to believe that this is nesting, but in reality, it was probably that I couldn’t find my favorite scarf – my go-to pregnancy accessory – and noticed a week’s worth of laundry had piled up. So on a Friday afternoon, I handled the laundry problem and found my scarf. On Saturday morning, B took both kids to the grocery store and I stayed home and cleaned the kitchen (so we could have a clean kitchen to fill with food) and then started tackling the playroom organization, making a list of everything that needed its own container since the bins I’ve been using aren’t handling the situation. And the art supplies were at the top of the not working list.

 

For Christmas, we replenished both kids’ art supplies for their “needs” category of our gift giving. Thomas is not at all detail oriented or artsy – speeds through his coloring assignments like it’s nobody’s business. He is definitely my kid in this regard: I have vivid memories of my 2nd grade teacher laughing when I turned in a coloring sheet before anyone else so I could go out to recess. She told me it would be okay if I wanted to use more than one color and stay in the lines. Meh. So, Thomas needed scissors, glue sticks, fine tip markers, etc to practice those every-so important fine motor skills and arts and crafts that he naturally does not come by. And Nell lives for anything arts and crafty (definitely not my kid in that regard, but definitely my mom’s grandchild and my sister’s niece), and since we’ve already established that her mother does not, we were lacking in the appropriate for toddlers art department over here. So that was an easy need to fulfill for Christmas this year.

  art supply box

What was not so easy, was organizing all that crap. I’ve had their art supplies sitting in a massive bin since Christmas, and it’s an organizational nightmare. Digging around to find the right markers, scissors, etc…not my thing, and therefore, we just don’t do that much art stuff. Not to mention the tub was so big I only had a place for it in the basement…and trekking a heavy box up and down the staris whenever we did a craft meant that crafts were few and far between. But a lightbulb went off when I saw that Claire pinned this organizational roundup – the blog that posted the over-the-door hanger was no longer around, so I did my own search and found this. When we went off to college, my mom sent each of us kids off with an over-the-door shoe organizer to keep all the little stuff in on the back of our dorm room closet doors: chargers, deodorant, makeup, etc. I toted that thing all through college from dorm room to sorority house to rented hovel my senior year. I even hung it on the back of B’s and my closet door at our first house – where it went unused because I had an entire house full of drawers to put things in, and we finally threw it away before we moved. Bad move, Emily. Bad move.

The basement door is right off the kitchen where we usually do any arts and crafts beyond coloring, so that was the prime location for my new found arts and crafts organization. Take a look at that gorgeous door – complete with a cat door. For the cat we don’t – and will never due to B being allergic – have. Add it to the replace someday list. Along with the curly-q door handles.

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With a new shoe hanger purchased, I tackled the bin of arts and crafts supplies. Coloring books and paper lay flat, so they got moved to an unused drawer. And every art supply got a shoe cubby. It makes me happy…and more likely to paint with my kids since I don’t have to lug a big bin up from the basement, and then sort through it, to find something to do. I will say that I don’t plan to put anything I’m not cool with the kids having access to in the bottom three rows, the scissors quickly got moved to the top row when Thomas flocked to them like a moth to a flame upon opening the basement door, but as long as I’m aware of tiny, curious hands and plan accordingly, I think this will work out beautifully.

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So that’s the latest and greatest around here organization-wise. Beats the pants off the bottomless tub of art supplies. What do you think? How do you organize craft and art supplies?

Operation Curb Appeal: To Shutter or Not?

Back before I had kids…and before there was pressure to not post a picture on a blog unless it was so pretty it was Pinterest worthy, I blogged a lot more. And asked you guys questions about what you would do in blank and blank situation.  Let’s get back to that, k? Starting with an update on the future curb appeal of our not yet appealing house. As promised shortly after we moved in, our big house project for the Spring is exterior work. Operation curb appeal has been consuming my mind since we moved in, and with a promise that one day we will have green grass again, I am itching to get the ball rolling. The curb appeal has always been my biggest “meh” about our house. I mean, our last house was my dream, curb appeal-wise. If we could have doubled the lot size, added a room on each floor and put our current elementary school within walking distance of our old house, I would have never moved. But, it turns out that lot size and the physical location of schools are a lot harder to change than paint colors and outdoor lights.  Who knew? Here’s a look at the current state of affairs:

house issues

I think the main issue with the picture above is how faded everything is. I’m sure that in its youth, this color scheme worked. But in it’s 14 years of faded by Southern Colorado sun glory, it’s not working. You cannot see in this pic the Olympic torch porch and garage lights we’ll be replacing, but those will all change (not necessarily to the lights and door I badly photoshopped in below, I was just playing around and forgot to save the previous draft and am too tired to undo it). The front door and storm door will also change.

So here’s the question. Notice in the top picture how we only have shutters on our garage window? That’s bugged me. Always. When B’s mom met me at the house during our inspection to pick the babies up and take them back to our house for naps, she looked around the neighborhood for a few minutes before hand and said, “Have you noticed that this exact model usually has shutters on all the big windows, and not just the garage window?” And that got the wheels turning. I had originally planned to just yank off the imbalanced garage shutters, but I think bringing an accent color (as long as it doesn’t blend into the house color) to the windows would look great. So we’re adding shutters to the main floor window for sure. Like below:

No Top Shutters And maybe to the top level, too. I think I like the idea of bringing the door and shutter color up to the top floor. The only hangup I have is the craftsman window trim at the top that doesn’t usually lend itself to shutters. Our painter said they just change that out when they install the shutters, so no big deal, but I do like the trim. So above is the top window shutterless. And below is the top window shuttered (my photoshopping is mediocre at best, so this is just to give an idea – not a final representation).

Top Shutters

I’m leaning towards shutters on the top window, to bring the color accent up on the house. But I suppose there’s always the option to get the house painted, and install the top shutters later if we think it’s necessary. But it sounds a whole lot easier (and more likely to happen) if we just do it all at once. But, enough about me. What do you prefer?

The Nursery: A Blank Slate

On Monday night, B came home and was ready to get the rooms moved around for the baby. All of Nell’s furniture, except for her crib, were slated to be moved to the baby’s room, and I wanted to get that done enough in advance of the baby’s arrival for Nell’s sake. It didn’t go so well. As B moved furniture, Nell stood in the door and screamed, “Mine. My seat. Mine. My table. Mine. Mine.” So here’s hoping that her new, colorful room, a big new bed for her to grow into, and the safety of her turquoise crib help her come around to her room’s new look in the next few weeks. This morning she walked over to the baby’s crib and threw her favorite, “Mine” at it. To which her sweet, loving brother informed her, “Actually, Nell. This was never yours. This was my crib.” Gotta love older siblings.

But anyway, the baby’s room is a blank slate. Freshly painted white trim, freshly painted gray walls, a crib, a changing table, a chair and bookshelves. It feels so stark to me right now, and I’m itching to add color and personality, but I’m making myself wait. I’ve learned my lesson – I’ll want color and personality as soon as I know who will be living in this room, and I’m going to hold off to meet him or her before I make those decisions. So in the meantime, we have a very blank slate nursery. I can’t wait to watch this room evolve – I have a few ideas in my head of directions I’ll take the room depending on the baby’s sex, but the truth is that within days of knowing Nell, I wanted to change her whole nursery. And it wasn’t just because she was a girl, it was because she needed a room that fit her. I’d sit in the chair during midnight feedings and imagine how I could splash her sweet, but already big, personality all over the room. So that’s what the plan is in here – keep the room a blank slate until we know this sweet little one in a few weeks.

nursery blank slate

It’s far from a perfect photo, but I like to have a record of the process of a room. Consider this your “making progress” before. Not quite as before as the neon-y cobalt blue that we started with, but nowhere near as personable as it will one day be. And, you know, we’ll probably take the diaper box and other random things out of the crib and replace them with a baby.

So that’s that – we’ll get the bookshelves rearranged a bit and attached to the wall, I want to replace the globe for the ceiling fan light, and then we’ll just wait. But in the meantime, Nell’s room is so close to done and I’m excited to share that with you! Hopefully next week.

No Spending Month: Recap

We did it. As of tomorrow morning, we will officially be in February. And with nothing but staying in out of the snow planned for today, I feel confident saying that we will come in under my projected $500 cash spending for January. That included 31 days of groceries (while I did not run out on December 31st and stock up, this was made easier by using up pretty much everything we had just sitting in the pantry and freezer the first week and a half), taking meals to several friends who had really hard Januarys, 4 birthday gifts purchased, diapers for Miss Nell, and even a get-together here and there at our house with some friends. Not included in the $500 were our monthly bills, tithing, or gas for our cars. As I was driving into our neighborhood yesterday behind a UPS truck after picking T up at school, I realized the UPS guy (Fedex, etc) has not been to our house once in January. In this day and age of Amazon Prime, that’s just not normal for us. After his nearly daily stops in December, he must have appreciate the reprieve.

 

I accomplished a lot in January since I wasn’t walking the aisles of Target looking to kill time on cold and dreary days. I got quotes for our big exterior projects for this Spring (and was pleasantly surprised to realize I overestimated the costs of some big projects). I got our household pretty well organized to add a 5th human to in a month – I have a very small list of things we need to buy to either get Nell’s room up and running once we move most of her furniture to the baby’s room or a few things that we’ll need for the McNugget (I’ll post on the plans there, soon).

 

But mostly, it was a really good exercise for us to take a good, hard look at how and why we spend money. Towards the end of the month, I’ll be honest. I just wanted to go out for a burger and fries. And as Nell’s leggings and tops became increasingly short on her, it took all of my will power to hold off on the cute Spring toddler clothes ads that were flowing into my inbox – so I unsubscribed from all those stores and that, in and of itself, has been liberating. But I digress. No spending January was exactly what we needed to remind us of how our spending is a choice – we are not any less happy at the end of January than we would have been if we’d bought everything and done everything our hearts desired this month. And that is eye-opening.

 

But our no spending month also helped us highlight some areas of our budget that weren’t working for us and we have decided to make some budgeting changes for 2014. It turns out that after 5 years, the envelope budget might not be the best thing for us. We did a much better job with a lump sum of money that we had to spend for our entire household budget for the month than we had recently been doing with categories. I think a lot of this is just mindset – once we were used to the categories and the amount we could spend in them, we spent the money because it was there and we were allowed to. We’ve always justified the categories saying that they roll over and become savings vehicles – and for certain areas, that’s true. We will continue to put $75 a month into Casco’s envelope – it gradually adds up to help offset vet expenses when they come up and covers the pricey, limited-ingredient dog food that our first born’s allergies require. But the other categories we are going to take a long, hard look at and decide if we’d be better off living on less every month, and then occasionally spending a little bit in certain areas. Like, for example, when Nell outgrows her entire wardrobe in a span of 5 days.

 

The most important thing we took from this month was that things come up, but when we approach our budget thoughtfully, we can usually balance the unexpected expenses that come up. I mentioned that B’s car needed to be repaired on the 4th day of our no spending month and his last semester of tuition was due before the end of January, too. We were so annoyed, but as we talked about it, we realized that’s how we should always handle months when those things come up – cutting back in other areas so we can absorb the unexpected costs into our budget rather than just putting less into savings that month.

 

So B and I have to sit down and figure out how our budget looks for February – and the rest of the year. Beyond determining a plan of action for our budget, my financial goal for February is to look into cutting our costs for our recurring monthly bills – if it weren’t for sports, we could probably cut cable altogether and go with Hulu or Netflix…but that’s just not going to happen in this football/golf/baseball/hockey/basketball/you name it obsessed household. But, we’re feeling energized knowing how much we now know that we can save monthly when we choose to forego unnecessary items. So, that’s how January is wrapping up for us. I’ve heard from a couple people who are contemplating a no spending month in the near future, and I would love to hear how it goes for you! B and I are still discussing doing this more than once a year, but I think it will definitely be something we stick to as a spending diet after the holidays in January for a few years to come!

 

What You Really Need For The Hospital

*I just switched hosting companies for the blog, and other than the switch eating all the comments on yesterday’s post, I think everything is up and running. If you run into any trouble though, please let me know!

We’re 6 weeks out from the baby’s due date, which means that I’ve started to accumulate a small pile on a shelf in my closet of things to throw in a bag when I go into labor. I refuse, this time around, to pack a bag 4 weeks in advance because, let’s be honest, McKevitt babies take their sweet time – and often require encouragement – to make their way into the world. But if I were one of those girls who had a few contractions and headed to the hospital barely in time to even discuss pain medication let alone make a decision about it before the baby arrived, I might have a bag packed by now. Or not.

But, one thing I AM good about doing is packing only things you need for the hospital – in the heat of the moment or not. So, here’s what is on my mental list of what I took when Nell was born (when Thomas was born we still needed to lug our laptop with us because our blackberries certainly weren’t sufficient for posting the big news to Facebook…oh how times have changed). Most of these are things I wear daily, so as long as I have my list of what I need, I’ll do a quick load of laundry if necessary before we head to the hospital and we’ll be good to go.

what you really need for the hospital For Labor: Flip Flops. Sports Bra. Maternity Tank. Yoga Pants. Headband. Phones and Chargers.   After Delivery: V-Neck Jersey Dress. Maternity Leggings. Socks. Pretty Robe. Nursing Pillow (cover here). Camera. Going Home: Bamboo Belly Bandit. Glamourmom Long Top. Maternity Leggings. Aden and Anais Swaddling Blanket.

 

Early Labor: Okay, for labor, this is what I actually show up at the hospital in – rather than pack in my bag. Maternity (or not – I didn’t buy maternity this go-around) yoga pants, a sports bra (which I wear in the labor tub at our hospital), a maternity tank, flip flops, one of my favorite headbands and our iPhones and chargers for communicating with the fam. Being that this baby isn’t going to come in June like I’m used to, I’ll probably throw a zip up hoodie on over the tank top before we leave.

For the late stages of labor and delivery, I just use what the hospital has – their gown, etc. They get gross, you don’t want to deal with that, and they give the docs the access they need to check you. With Thomas I labored in a tank top and sports bra, and then had them cut off of me before my emergency c-section. Just use the hospital’s stuff.

After delivery, I immediately changed out of the hospital issue gown into a deep v-neck jersey dress. It was as comfy as pajamas, but gave me easy access for nursing and skin to skin time. The dress pictured is a nursing dress, but I’d add a sleep nursing bra to the mix, too. I’ll throw in a pair of leggings just in case it’s freezing, but probably won’t wear them because, if I remember correctly, the checks are frequent and pants just get in thew ay. A pretty robe for pictures is a nice touch and keeps you warm if your room is chilly. And definitely socks – whatever variety you prefer, but my feet get cold and I like socks. The hospital where I delivered Thomas was “Baby Friendly” (just not Emily friendly), and they provided nursing pillows, so the Boppy I’d packed went unused and I didn’t bring it when we had Nell. But the Emily friendly hospital where Nell was born doesn’t provide them and I sent B home for it the morning after Nell was born, so maybe something to check before you pack it. I do think it’s nice to have that extra arm support in the hospital – for gazing at your sweet baby on your lap, but also to help with nursing positioning. And of course, the real camera – I don’t need high def pictures of me in labor, but I definitely need them of my newborn. Not Pictured: A small toiletries bag. Toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant (pack your husband’s, too), a brush and any makeup you need. I keep it pretty minimal.

Between delivery and the time I’m discharged, I use whatever the hospital will bring me. Their disposable underwear, their pads,  their ice packs, their diapers, their swaddling blankets, their baby shirts and hats, everything. Gotta get that deductible’s worth :) .

 

Going Home: It’s hard to accept, but news cameras are not going to be camped outside of the hospital for weeks waiting for the first glimpse of me, B and baby Peyton Manning McKevitt. So we’ll leave looking fabulous 24 hours after delivery to Kate Middleton. I will leave the hospital in maternity leggings, my very favorite nursing tank, and the sweatshirt/cardigan that I’ve lived in since September.  And my bamboo belly bandit. I don’t bother with the Belly Bandit until I’m discharged, because the nurses come check you all the time, but this thing is indispensable to me in the first few weeks after delivery. I bought it after my C-Section with Thomas and think it was monumental for my quick recovery – and used it after my VBAC with Nell to get that postpartum belly back in shape sooner. The baby will wear jammies home from the hospital (and for the first many weeks of its life) – I bring two outfits, one for a boy and one for a girl. We install the car seat about a week before I’m due usually, and we just leave the car seat in the car while we’re at the hospital and B runs out to get it before we leave. I also bring one of my beloved Aden and Anais swaddling blankets for the ride home. We also leave the hospital with as many free diapers as we can stuff in our bag.

So, that’s what will go in my hospital bag. Because we live close to the hospital, I just have B throw some sweats and a change of clothes on top of my stuff last minute. He always comes home at least once to shower – so much nicer than the hospital – and to check on things on the home front, so we don’t worry too much about what he has.

Master Bedroom: New Bedding

When we moved into our first house, we were engaged and our room was the first room we painted. With kids who we wanted to get settled, our room in this house was one of the last ones we painted (well, the kids needing to be settled was one excuse, the fact that the ceilings are ridiculously high was another). So, with paint on the walls, our room had become my focus. I still love the quilt I bought 3 years ago for our bed, but I was over the matchiness of the shams with it and ready for a little pattern mixing. So, for my birthday (technically the first day of January, which meant B had to do his shopping in December…no way would I do no spending January if it meant no presents, let’s be real), I asked for new shams for our bed and new sheets. I think you officially become a grown-up when you ask for sheets for your birthday.

Mixed Pattern Bedding

I photoshopped up a couple different ideas, and finally decided on these gray and white sheets from West Elm, and these blue Ikat shams to pull some of the blues out of our quilt. Can I say? I have never loved sheets so much. For the last 10 years, I’ve only had solid sheets – following the whole make your master bedroom like a hotel rule. And you know what I discovered? Even with solid white sheets, my bed did not magically get made every morning, there were no fresh towels waiting for me upon returning to the room at the end of the day, and my toilet paper has never folded itself into a triangle. What gives, white sheets? I thought you were magical. So with the hotel luxury thing not happening, I decided to throw caution to the wind and look into patterned options. The gray and white stripes spoke to me and I love that the horizontal stripes help me remember which direction a King sized sheet should go (am I the only one with that problem?).

mixed pattern bedding 2

You know what’s pretty interesting? Now that I want to see my sheets, the bed does magically get made every morning. The toilet paper’s still not folding itself, but baby steps. I’m on the hunt for the perfect solid navy pillow to hang out in front of the Ikat shams. Next on my list for this room are window treatments and new lampshades. And hanging the stuff we’ve had leaning against the walls in here since June.

So that’s the latest change in our master bedroom. I love my new sheets – I’m a patterned sheet convert. And I find them even more wonderful when my little buddy climbs under the covers while I’m taking pictures and requests that I climb in and snuggle with him. Irresistible.

mixed patern bedding

Random Updates

    • It’s probably pretty obvious, if you’ve read this blog for any length of time and know mine, Mr. B’s, Thomas, and even Nell’s affection for our Orange and Blue Broncos, that we’re psyched that the Broncos are headed to the Super Bowl. First time in 15 years!!! With our excitement noted, I do not get involved in trash talk, rivalries, etc…I think it’s bad luck. B and his best friend’s fiancee, who happens to be a Patriots fan, were dishing a lot of trash talk back and forth when we played the Patriots earlier in the season, and we all know how that ended up. I told Mr. B he was not allowed to text during the game on Sunday. Just doing my part. But yeah, we’re pumped. Broncos fans are very loyal fans and we’ll glean hope from just about anything – even Tebow’s crazy 4th quarter comebacks in 2011 – but being a Broncos fan is not always easy. We had our glory days in Elway’s final few seasons, but since his retirement, it’s been a revolving door of quarterbacks, coaches, and early playoff losses. So we’re psyched, and so excited to watch a really good game on February 2nd.  Go Broncos!!!

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  • A quick Thomas-ism. I loved this conversation between B and T last week. There’s been SO much college talk around our house between the bowl games wrapping up and CU’s basketball team being decent, and our neighbors who T idolizes talking about their college dreams (they’re 10 and 7, so, you know, dreams), that B was wondering if T had any opinions on colleges.

B: Hey buddy, do have any idea what college you might like to go to someday?

T: Yep! One with a tunnel slide!

 

  • Last week, while B was at a board meeting, I was starting the bath water, helping T get his shirt off, and digging out the soap from under the counter. I turned around and Miss Nell had climbed on in – clothes, shoes, and all. You might recall this picture I have hanging in their bathroom. Like mother, like daughter. I’m in for it. And yes, this photo will be framed and hung in their bathroom. Like, February 1st when I can spend money again :)

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  • Unexciting but necessary house projects. Someday, we intend to replace all of our contractor baseboards with thicker, craftsman style ones. That someday is pretty low on the priority list, so in the meantime, we just needed to touch up trim in some places. Starting with the baby’s room. Caroline came up on Monday and cranked out the trim and doors in that room since at 34 weeks pregnant, crouching down to paint trim wasn’t going to happen for me. I’ll share a trim update soon, but here’s the beastly before:
  • IMG_0774 And the last update, also not at all glamorous. Our powder room toilet has been fickle since we moved in – sometimes it just wouldn’t refill all the way so it wouldn’t flush, and in the last month it’s slowly started to run. I replaced the innards of two toilets at our old house one day while B was at work – we’d bought the kits, and he was dreading it and in the middle of finals for his MBA, so I just sat down and read the instructions and did it during naps one day. And I was pretty proud of myself – who says you have to have your husband fix the running toilet? So armed with a Home Depot gift card on Monday (technically not spending since it was a gift…but a little hazy on the no spending front. I’m calling the savings we’ll see from water waste with a running toilet worth it), I ran out and bought a $10 toilet tank replacement kit. At our last house we used the dual flush eco friendly ones and I really didn’t like them, so we went old school and saved $15. IMG_0776

 

So that’s what’s going on at our house. Glamorous projects, a big football game, and silly kids. Happy Wednesday, everyone!

No Spending Month: Week 2

Week 2 (and a halfish) of our No Spending Month is under our belts. The second week was a little bit tougher in terms of resisting spending – catalogs came in the mail and suddenly I felt like a room needed a pillow or accent table update. But I really think this challenge has been good for us. Normally, I’d just take what we have in the house envelope and go buy something that we don’t need – but this week we just refreshed a couple rooms by moving things around and working with what we have. On weekdays that B doesn’t remember to take his lunch, he always runs out to grab something – I’ve been packaging leftovers into smaller containers so that he can take a lunch serving with him every morning so that he’s not in that situation. Here are the things I’m noticing during no spending month, so far:

 

  • We’re playing more at home. Normally when the kids wake up on a day when we have nothing planned, I add a couple errands to the day. Anything to not be cooped up inside all day long, right? But since spending is out, we either head to a park (though cold, extremely windy days have kept that to a minimum) or our local rec center where we can play for free. We’ve made more play dates with friends, because they’re free, and we’re spending a lot more time together playing in the mornings than rushing out the door to get things done.

 

  • Meal planning. I’ve always said that the single key to keeping our grocery budget in line is planning out meals, and I’m not always very good about it. In honesty, there are few chores I like less than meal planning. But planning out our meals has made this possible. Where I need to improve? Planning for lunches and breakfasts. That’s my goal for the final two weeks of January.

 

  • No fast food. I’m not the worst about fast food, but the convenience (and deliciousness) of Chik Fil A suckers me in a few times a month after I pick T up at school – or when we just need to get out of the house for the love… Instead, we’re eating lunch at home, B’s taking leftovers for lunch to work

 

  • To go along with that, we’re eating more healthfully. I just went to the grocery store yesterday for the first time to get a few convenience snack foods – namely crackers to send with cheese and meat for T’s snacks at lunch. But otherwise, snacks have been fruit out of the fruit bowl.

 

I know that budget posts are interesting, but let’s be honest – without real numbers, it’s kind of hard to gauge. I’m always hesitant to talk numbers – cost of living varies SO much from region to region (Colorado is considered medium cost of living, generally, I think – higher than some, lower than some) and what is living frugally to some families might be extravagant to others – or some people might think we’re just not feeding our family this month. Keep in mind, this does not account for our bills we pay directly, gas which we just charge to the credit card, etc – this is just our cash spending. But here goes:

 

We’ve got two more weeks to go in January, and so far we’ve spent $200 total out of our cash budget this month. We’ve pretty much kept our spending to just groceries and gifts – we have a good amount of winter birthdays to plan for so our gift spending is more in the first few months of the year. I’d estimate that we’ve spent $70 a week on groceries (working with what we had – frozen meat, a couple frozen meals we were ignoring in the bottom of the freezer, etc going into January helped that a lot so I expect that to be a bit higher in the next two weeks) out of that $200. On top of the $200 total for cash budgeting, we spent an unexpected $200 when B’s car wouldn’t start during a cold snap at the beginning of the month and we had to get that taken care of so he would have a reliable car to get to and from work. Even with that unexpected car repair, we think we’re doing really well. We normally budget closer to $1250 a month for cash spending (I did a budget breakdown here, but our spending has increased in those two years) on top of our set bills and expenses, so we’re looking to save a lot this month. We have a couple more January birthdays to account for, two more weeks of groceries, and Nell will need more diapers before month’s end. I think I can handle all of that for under $300. Even with the unexpected car repair, that would bring us under what I originally set aside for our “no spending month”. B told me last night, “This no spending thing is pretty awesome. I love not constantly spending money.” Me too, and it was just the wake up call we needed about how unnecessary some of our spending has been.

 

So that’s the update, hope you’ve all had great weeks and are looking forward to a fun weekend.

No Spending Month: Week 1

So, we’re one week into our No Spending January, and can I be honest? So far, we’re pretty much loving it.  When I first started blogging about budgeting back in January 2009, we had so much fun with our budget. We started the envelope system of budgeting out of fear – I had been laid off from my job in the internet sector in November 2008. I was thankfully employed again within two weeks, but as soon as January 2009 rolled around, they were restructuring Mr. B’s department at work and we were acutely aware of how volatile the economy was. We were awesome about our budget – our goal was to live on one income so that we could roll with the punches of the economy 5 years ago, and we took so much pride – and had fun – cutting numbers in certain categories, being thrifty about going out, and even having to say, “It’s not in the budget” when we were asked to do something. B made it through the restructuring and has continued to work his way up in the company. Finally in October we made the decision that we’re financially in a place where we are comfortable on just one income and that at this time, the most important thing for our family is for one of us to be at home with our kids full-time. With that decision, and the impending arrival of Baby #3, I gave notice at my job and have transitioned from work at home mom into stay at home mom. (Please note, this has been a hot topic at imperfect over the years from some lovely anonymous readers. Everyone has to do what’s right for their family, and what is right for our family will change with time and continue to evolve. But right now, this is what works. Those of you who’ve been reading for a long time know that there’s a long long history of the crap that has led us to never trust anyone ever with our children, but that honestly doesn’t even matter. This is about respect, every woman should be entitled to decide how she wants to do the mom and work thing without judgment and with nothing but loving support from other moms and women. End of story.)

 

Okay, so with that back story behind us, a little after Thomas was born – about two years into envelope budgeting – budgeting became less fun. We were still living on our restricted budget despite income increases, and sometimes, it was just dull. We’d give ourselves some leeway, and then get annoyed when we didn’t transfer as much money to savings every month as we were used to. Having a second child, and then moving, didn’t help what was becoming laziness about the budget. We were living on our budget because we knew we should, not because we had to or wanted to. And that led to budget resentment.

 

Which is why, entering 2014, we needed to refresh the way we look at our budget. We weren’t good about coming home to get cash anymore before running an errand. We were so used to having a certain amount to spend every month that we spent it quickly, and then as the month rolled on we’d either resent the budget or just buy something anyway. But, as we look ahead, we need to prioritize savings. The kids aren’t going to get less expensive as activities and school start. Mr. B’s car will likely be replaced in the next two years or so. We’ve got some trips planned and some weddings committed to. We’d like to continue to prioritize saving for the kids’ college educations. And those goals required us to cut spending and really focus on savings. And so, I cut out all non-necessities in our budget this month as a way for us to refocus our energy on living frugally. We have cash for food, for our bills and utilities, for gas, and for diapers. We’re still giving our friends and family with January birthdays gifts. I’m still taking meals to our friends who have just had babies. But otherwise, we’re saying no:

In the first week, we’ve said no a lot. I’ve turned down dinner with a friend and just honestly said, “We’re doing ‘No spending January’, so I can’t go out tonight”. We always go out to breakfast with our friends after church on Sundays, and last week we told our group that we’d be opting out this month – but that we’d love to have everyone over for bagels and juice at our house instead of in a restaurant one week. The kids and I have hit up the rec center to play while it’s been cold, and we’ll be doing a lot more parks and the zoo (where we have an annual membership – my birthday gift from my parents. Memberships are some of my very favorite gifts to receive!) when the weather warms up. I wanted to refresh the pillows on my couch to get anything Christmas-y out of rotation, so I went through my fabric stash and found some good options for new covers.  B was given tickets to a CU Basketball game and while I’d normally opt-out of basketball – the only thing I ever liked about that sport was the way the shoes squeak on the court – I said yes for the free activity. And we just went to the game – parked on the street, didn’t buy food – and had a blast.\

From a grocery shopping perspective, we went to the store for the first time last night. We didn’t run out and stock up before January started (that would be cheating), but we had a good amount of stuff we’ve just not used in our pantry and freezer because we didn’t want to. We spent the first week of January using what we had on hand. It was bleak at times, but it was really good to clean out.

The first week itself has been enlightening. I realize how often I spend money just because it’s allocated for something in the budget, and not because we need it. Our normal budget allows a good amount of money to be spent on the kids each month. And while sometimes – like the months both kids need new shoes – we use it quickly, other months I just spend it because the cash is in the envelope labeled “Toys and Clothes” and I can. I haven’t set foot in Target since January began, the only stop I’ve made at the mall was to return a sweater I’d bought for Nell to wear to Christmas Mass…her Christmas Eve illness kept us home instead. And I’ve been loving it.

So far, one week in, we’re energized. I will say, that despite our “No Spending” choice, we won’t actually save much money this month. B’s car needed to be repaired on day 4 (Murphy’s Law!) and his tuition for his final semester of grad school – and books for those classes – is due this month, too. I was annoyed when I realized these would fall in our No Spending month, but then I realized it’s a really good thing. This is how we SHOULD handle months with these bigger one off expenses – cutting all other spending to account for them. We’ve always just justified one off expenses saying we save so that we can handle them, but this has been an invigorating way to approach them instead. I’m almost looking forward to writing that tuition check this month.

 

So that’s our very long budget back story and check-in on week one of our no spending January. I’ve talked to a few friends who are doing a similar thing this month, so let me know how your progress is going – and as always, if you have questions, ask away!