Saving & Giving Challenge - What I Learned..........

>> Friday, October 16, 2015

It's mid-October and I realized that I never did a recap or end-of-challenge blog post for the September Challenge.  I really couldn't believe that the month went by so quickly.....but it was definitely an eye-opening, lesson-learning experience for me!

So what did I learn?

I learned that I CAN put money into savings and not think twice about spending it.  I learned that I LIKE seeing the numbers grow in that savings account and that when I see that savings build up, it makes me think twice about wanting to spend. When I would spend money I didn't have, the account would be red, and I'd have to transfer money from savings to cover that. But now....I think twice.....but then I also find myself swinging to the other extreme at times-- not wanting to spend at all.

I learned that when I put my mind to it, I can avoid the impulse buys.....but I learned that I still have a long way to with controlling my emotions.....or rather, letting my emotions control my binges proved.  I learned that I can recognize those trigger emotions and try to come up with better coping techniques.

I learned that my organizational OCD tendencies can prove to be very beneficial when planning a budget and making sure that bills get paid on time.  I starting marking bill due dates in my calendar and deducting them in the checkbook right away so that I can see - in black and white - where the money is going.

I learned that auto bill paying can be my best friend

I learned that I still have problems writing actual checks for bills where auto pay is not an option.  I learned that I need to figure out why this is such a sticking point for me and come up with a better way to deal with this.

I learned that, while some unplanned expenses will pop up (i.e. car repairs, unexpected tickets from vacation, etc.), I can cope a little better knowing that I have a little bit of a savings cushion right now.  (See point #1)

I learned that my compulsive spending has led to a minor case of hoarding and a big case of clutter.  They go hand in hand for me.  I learned that I'm not a big full-price buyer and that my compulsion is fueled by the thrill of finding good bargains and sales.

I learned that it's ok to let it all go.  I learned that it feels so good to just give and not expect anything in return.  I learned that this is something I want to continue to do in the months to come.

I learned that I still have a long way to go and that I will never have this 100% under control.  I learned that each day will present it's own challenges and that only I can choose how to handle them.  Some days I will succeed.....and some days I will fail big time......and that's ok. 

As long as I learn and keep moving forward, it will all be ok........


It's Furlough Season Everyone!

>> Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ah yes.....October 1st is quickly approaching.....and it's the most wonderful time of the year!  It's Furlough Season everyone!!

For those out there who aren't familiar with this JOYOUS celebration, let me share with you!  Furlough Season is where all government employees around the country join hands in anticipation of the arrival of the Furlough Fairy. 

The Furlough Fairy flies throughout the country on Furlough Eve (which is September 30th) spreading the shredded remains of the previous year's government budget.  As these sparkles of joy fall from the sky, governments across the land shut down, paychecks magically stop coming and thousands of government employees are granted extended vacations. 

First time celebrating Furlough Season?  Here are some tips that my family has used throughout the years. 

*  Here in our home, the kids and I decorate our little Furlough tree with the hundreds of coupons for $1 off SPAM and BOGO beef jerky.  In the spirit of Furlough Season, we don't use our twinkle lights because it takes away from the bleakness that we try to embrace as a family.

*  About a week before Furlough Day, I change my ringtone to ACDC's "Money Talks" just for my creditors.  (Creditors are people too and they especially love this time of year more than we do, I think!)

*  Most government recreational parks and attractions are closed during this time, so the kids and I really take advantage of this time to enjoy our local park bench in front of Wal-Mart while Daddy is inside filling out an application at the job kiosk.  Sometimes we let the kids go too so that they can experience the wonders of a paperless job application process.  (It's all about teaching them life skills people!)

*  Be sure to check your mailboxes for my annual "Woo Hoo! The Government's Broke!" greeting card/family letter where I share articles like "How to Dodge the Repo Man in Two Easy Steps", "How To Make Homemade Cough Syrup With Just a Bottle of Tequila and Food Coloring".  I also have a recipe section where I share with you tips on how to feed a family of 4 + one dog with one can of tuna and french fries found in your car.

*  And don't forget to Google "Homemade Xanax"!  I know there are a lot of affordable homeopathic remedies out there.  (My favorite is mixing a tablespoon of Nyquil with a shot of gin)
But seriously......all kidding aside.  I seriously wish, along with millions of other Americans, that Congress would get their shit together.  Every year, government employees go through this stress all because a group of selfish, inconsiderate assholes in suits can't agree like adults.  They are willing to put thousands of families and their livelihood at risk because no one is willing to concede or budge.  It's my way or I'll take my ball and go home -- in this case, let's shut the government down until we get our way. 
While my husband sits at home without a paycheck, those jackasses sit on their asses in D.C. STILL collecting a paycheck, driving expensive cars and eating lunches that cost more than my monthly grocery budget.  Enough already.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to start my dinner preparations.  Tonight we're having oatmeal shaped in the form of meatloaf.

Happy Furlough Season to all......and to all, a good night.........



"Off-Tober" Rules - Part 2

SIX days until I start the "Off-Tober" Challenge!  You can read the initial post about the challenge HERE and Part 1 of my rules HERE.

Part 2 of the rules will touch on television. 

If I have an addiction to Facebook, then TV is a close tie.  I suppose I should have chosen to do TV as it's own separate challenge......because, let's face it.  This one is going to be tough.

We have 3 TVs in the house.  Nani has one in her room, but she can only watch DVDs on it.  Nudgie has a portable DVD player that also serves as a CD player as well.  We have Netflix, Hulu, On Demand, and Direct TV.  And I'm sure at one point, all of our TVs have been on simultaneously at one time or another.

TV is my background noise.  TV is my escape when I don't want to do housework.  TV is my babysitter and my buffer.  And I'll tell you an even bigger confession......I can't sleep without the TV on.  I suppose that goes back to my early married days when My Marine was gone for weeks/months at a time.  I lived alone in an apartment in a not-so-nice area.....the TV kept me company.  I liked hearing those made me feel like I wasn't so alone.  But it's a habit that stuck.....and one I'm having a hard time breaking.  I can't stand a silent room......period.

I'm not going completely cold turkey for this challenge.  I can't.  For the safety of my family and the dog.....I just can't.  Plus, let's be honest --- it's Fall Premiere season and I need my "How To Get Away With Murder" and "Once Upon a Time" fix.  So for this month, here is what I'm going to try to accomplish:

1)  The TV can stay on the morning.  I usually check the news/weather and allow the girls to watch Looney Tunes while they have breakfast.  Once the girls leave for school, all TVs gets turned off.  I'll be playing music through my laptop.  I could use the music channels on the TV, but it's too easy to just flip the channel to catch a show......get sucked in......and then the laundry doesn't get folded because I just need to know if Horatio Caine catches that criminal on the 400th rerun of CSI:  Miami.

3)  During lunch -- if I remember to have lunch -- I will be allowed to watch one show from my DVR list, Netflix or Hulu.

4)  When the girls come home, they will be allowed to watch one show while having an after-school snack.  Even kids need some downtime before tackling chores and homework!  But then the TV gets turned off again.

5)  We've been guilty of eating dinner in front of the TV......either downstairs in the family room on TV tables or even at the kitchen table.  Dinners will be moved back to the kitchen table and the TV will be off......even on nights when My Marine has to fly.  The only exception to this will be Friday or Saturday nights when we usually have Family TV Night where we either watch a movie or family-friendly show while having pizza or nachos.

6)  Utilize the sleep timer function and auto tune function on my bedroom TV.  With auto tune, I can fall asleep watching a movie or show and when it's over, the TV will auto tune into a music channel that I can preset.  The TV is still on for me, but it will just be music instead of 2am infomericals.  I will also try to set the sleep time so that it will automatically shut off after a certain amount of time.  Baby steps steps.......give me some credit because this one is probably going to kill me.

I am curious to see, however, how much more I get done around the house when I don't have the distraction of Facebook and TV sucking my day away.  Or how much more focused I will be on my kids and family.

Have you ever done a TV challenge?  How did it work for you? 


Saving & Giving Challenge - The Binge

>> Thursday, September 24, 2015

I realized that I haven't posted a check-in update for a couple of days....heck, almost a week.  It really wasn't intentional......but maybe subconciously it was.

This past Friday, I had a binge.....which led to a full blown weekend binge.

Friday started off as such a good day for me.

I was excited to get my have some "me" time.  I stopped at Starbucks on my way and used my gift card to purchase a coveted Pumpkin Spice Latte.  I got a great cut, but not some great news that my stylist raised prices by $10.  I didn't budget for that, but it was fine and I was happy with my cut, so I paid it and gave him a tip (cash, which was planned).

On the way home, I stopped by Michael's to return some stuff I found stashed in my garage.  No question -- it was going back.  It was only a $7 return, but it was $7 back in the bank rather than junk laying around that I'd probably never use and end up giving away anyway.  I was so proud of myself for not walking around the store and buying anything.  I was proud of myself for even throwing away the 40% off coupon that I got with my return receipt.

I was doing this.  I could avoid the temptation if I really put my mind to it.

Or so I thought.

That night, I was supposed to have plans with some friends.  A girls' night out.  I'd been looking forward to this for DAYS!  My Marine has been gone a LOT and I desperately needed to blow off some steam before he left again on Sunday.  But the plans changed and my night got cancelled.

I was disappointed.  I was angry.  I was hurt.  I was irritated and annoyed.  I started to feel trapped and even my family started getting on my nerves.  So, I grabbed my purse and told My Marine I was heading out for a bit - to get a coffee.

I headed to Barnes & Noble.....and bought the coffee......and a bunch of books.

I could have stopped there, but I didn't.  My triggers were already in play and it's hard to get those demons back into the box once they're out.

On Saturday, I binged again.....more books, stuff for the girls, an unplanned stop at the Farmers Market, extra spending at the grocery store by going off the list.

On Sunday, I binged again when I took the girls BACK to Barnes & Noble after we took My Marine to the airport.

Sunday night, I sat and looked at the results of my binge and I could justify it by saying that I deserved it because I've been holding down the fort alone for so long....again.  Or that my plans changed so that I took the money I would have spent on a night out and spent it anyway.  Or that my kids needed something to help them cope with Daddy being gone....again.

But there was a big difference, this time I knew exactly WHY I did it. I knew every single emotion behind every single purchase.  Those emotions were so strong that it drove me to get a fix.  It didn't matter that I didn't need any single thing.....I just needed that high.  But knowing that awareness and recognizing it is HUGE for me.  That was something that had never been there before.  I would always push those feelings down and focus on my purchases.  Trying to hide them or find space to put them took the place of me confronting WHY I bought all that stuff in the first place.

I had high expectations for this monthly challenge.  I really thought that I could get through the month without a big binge.....but I was wrong.  I'm human.  I'm an addict in recovery.  I'll probably fall off the wagon more times than I'm on it.....but as long as I stay aware and recognize, I'll be one step closer to fewer relapses. 



The Cycle of an Addict

>> Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In my compulsive spending mind, at times, I think more about how I could spend my money and what I could spend it on, rather than do the responsible thing like, oh....I don't bills.

It's always the same story. It's a vicious cycle.

Each pay period I tell myself that I will be responsible. I will track what I spend. I will not do any unnecessary shopping - which means staying out of the craft stores, book stores, clothing stores.

But inevitably, the temptation or trigger kicks in and the urge grows so strong that it's literally hard to ignore that deep-seated want.  Like this past Friday when I had a "fix"......I knew exactly what triggered it.......I was angry.  I was angry and disappointed and hurt and fed up.  I felt all those things and told myself that I needed to feel better -- and nothing here in my home was going to do that for me. 

Other times it's boredom or avoidance.   I drop the kids off at school and don't want to go home and face the mountains of laundry, the dirty dishes in the sink, the dust bunnies holding a HOA meeting in my living let's go kill time shopping. 

And with those thoughts -- the cycle begins.

The mad dash to shop -- to buy things that I just don't need - but because I want it. I have to have it, although I don't know why. The euphoria of finding good deals. Of finding something I really like and instead of buying just one - I buy one of every basic color. At craft stores I'll buy supplies, telling myself all the while that it's a project that I'll get to. When in reality I've got LOTS of projects I'll "get to" sitting in my garage, my laundry room, on my living room floor.

But then there's the other side. The downside once the binge is over.

The euphoria is gone.  The buyer's remorse that sets in. The guilt that eats me up inside. The negative self-talk that I go through over and over and over. And it's always the same.

"You're so stupid. How could you do that again"

"You just have no self-control."

"You're useless and worthless. If you can't control this, then no wonder your life is so screwed up."

"You're such a disappointment to everyone."

And then once I finish that conversation, I just tell myself that I'll "make it right" by taking some stuff back. Completing the cycle. At least until it starts all over again.

In the midst of all this, I would try to hide my spending. Trying to stay one step ahead. Trying to detour my husband from wanting to spend money.  I'd get angry when he'd want to spend money on a 6-pack or go to Happy Hour. I now understand that I was projecting the anger I felt at myself towards him.

In Debtors Anonymous, we are taught to immediately start tracking our spending and to take it one day at a time. In my case, it has to be one hour at a time......sometimes even a few minutes at a time.  We are also encouraged to be held accountable - which is where this blog and my FB page comes in.

By writing and sharing, I am holding myself accountable. And just for today, I will take it one hour at a time.


"Off-Tober" Rules - Part 1

>> Monday, September 21, 2015

Nine days until I start the "Off-Tober" challenge.  You can read my initial post about the challenge HERE.  The post also lists specifically what I will be working on during the month.  But in this post, I will start to share some of the "rules" for the challenge.

This is going to be a tough one for me.....I already know this.  I love Facebook.  I love keeping up with friends, I love reading funny stuff and sharing funny stuff.  We keep in touch with long-distance family through Facebook.  But there are days when I check every few minutes....refresh the screen, scroll....scroll.....scroll......and then BAM!  The day is gone and I got nothing done.  Or I'm checking it on my stoplights, while waiting in line, etc. etc. So here are the Facebook rules:

*  Delete Facebook and Facebook Messenger from my phone completely.
*  Allow 30 minutes of Facebook in the morning before the kids are up for school and 20 minutes at night AFTER the kids are in bed.
*  Cut way back on pages "liked"......delete groups that I don't check in on or participate in regularly......cut back friend list

Cell Phone, In General:
*  In addition to FB, all games will be deleted as well.
*  GPS is allowed.
*  Before even starting the car, my phone will be put into "driving" mode
*  The phone stays in my purse and all phone calls/voice mails/texts will be checked at my destination only.  No stoplight checking.
*  When I am at activities with my girls, the phone stays in the car
*  Use an actual watch!  Use a real alarm clock!  I can't remember the last time I wore I watch.  In fact, I'll probably need to go buy a battery, it's been that long.
*  During dinnertime, the phone is put in silent mode.

Cell Phone Camera:
This kind of gets lumped into the "general cell phone" rule, but I feel it requires a little more space to explain.  I (and society, in general) use my phone now more than I use the little "battlecam".  It's quick, it's convenient and oh, will you look at that....I can immediately share to Facebook or via text.  But then I think back to the "olden days" where we actually had to use FILM in the cameras and wait 2-3 days before getting the pictures back and discovering that you were photobombed by that drunk guy at the bar.....completely ruining your group picture. 

But wait!  Now.....with can take picture after picture after picture until you get just the perfect one....approved by all involved!  When I got my new phone I discovered that I had over 400+ pictures and videos on my old phone.  Multiples of the same thing at the same event.

So, unless it's a special photos.  No pictures of the dog curled up on the couch "after-the-workout" Starbucks pictures.....

I do have two I blog about this month's challenge, if I feel that a photo would enhance my blog for that day, I will allow it.  And this month marks our 20th wedding you can bet that I'm going to be taking pictures of our anniversary activities.

Overall, the goal of this rule is to ENJOY BEING IN THE MOMENT and not try to CREATE A PERFECT MOMENT.

So there you have the first couple rules for "Off-Tober".  Next post, I'll touch on a couple more!


Saving & Giving Challenge - Days #16 - #17

>> Sunday, September 20, 2015

Day #16
*  Started to purge, declutter and clean up the mess that I've made in our garage.  I've put things in there with the well-intended meaning of "I'll get to it later"......and 6 months later, it's still there, but with more stuff around it.  Boxes of stuff just waiting to fall over and crush one of my children or my dog to death.  I was worried about pulling my Jeep into the garage with the fear of running something over. 

I went through one large blue tub and one black trunk full of stuff I was waiting to sell.......clothes, books, games, stuff I used to teach the girls before they went to school and even when they were in school.   All sorted into piles -- things to donate, things to consign or things to give to friends.

I honestly felt really good about getting through that stuff.  I threw things away without thinking twice.  I put things into piles or trash bags and didn't bat an eyelash.  I will admit that there were a few things that I felt that twinge and that little voice that said, "Go ahead and hold on to can sell it".  But I got over it......

I liked the feeling of reorganization and how uncluttered it looks.

Day #17
*  Payday today.  I went to the grocery store with my list......and I stuck to the list.....sort of.  Once I got to the store I realized that I forget to add a few things.  Technically they were supposed to be on the list to begin with, so I really didn't count them as "impulse buys".  But I DID toss in some ice cream and a box of pumpkin spice oatmeal.  Both of those were TRUE impulse buys.  (But it was PUMPKIN SPICE OATMEAL for heaven's sake!!!!)  Still -- UNPLANNED - $12.00

*  Sat down with my calendar and checkbook and planned out the next two weeks and the bills that are due.  Deducted any upcoming automatic payments and balanced out the checkbook.  For the first time in YEARS, both the checkbook and the bank balance were the same.

*  Another first for me......I ended a pay period in the black......not by much....but it was in black.  No extra spending.  Major high fives for me!
*  Remember all the decluttering and purging I did yesterday?  Well, I did some driving around today dropping stuff off at Goodwill and passing some things on to some friends.  Also made arrangements with some other friends for some of this other stuff too.  Feels so good to get rid of this stuff!

Stuff this morning before I loaded it up in my Jeep



Spending Less, Loving More - The "Off-Tober" Challenge

>> Thursday, September 17, 2015

During September, I started a challege where I'm focusing on spending less, saving more, and decluttering.  While the month isn't over yet and the challenge will still be ongoing even when the month is over, one thing that stuck with me the most was this -- what good is all the decluttering and discovering a more authentic, simple life if I can't enjoy it with my family because we all have our noses buried deep into technology.

I'm guilty of it -- big time.  Missing moments with my kids in the car because I'm checking my phone at stoplights.  Sending my kids to bed with movies on their DVD players because I have to watch one more episode on Netflix, or I have to check Facebook one last time.  Or I look at the books all around my house.....unread because I'm too busy checking my DVR list.  Or I'm missing the truly authentic moment because I'm too busy trying to get the perfect picture to post on Facebook.  Or I missed my daughters perfect their pirouette or backbend because I was too busy texting or scrolling through Facebook.

I recently got a new phone.  The first thing I installed?  Facebook.  My priorities are truly fucked up (pardon the language).......and I'm going to tackle that during October's challenge.....which I have called "Off-Tober"

During this challenge I will cut back, if not cut out altogether, Facebook, email, phone use (including texting, games, using apps, etc.) and TV.  Please understand that the rules that I list for the challenge are MY rules - rules that will work for ME and MY FAMILY.  They may not work for may run a business and need constant access to technology......and THAT'S OK!  Do what you need to do for YOU and YOUR FAMILY.  This isn't a cookie cutter what works for YOU!

Over the next few weeks, before the challenge starts, I will go into more specific details for each thing -- what's allowed, what's not allowed, etc.   But to give you an idea, here's the list of the things I will be giving up/cutting back on:

1)  Facebook
2)  Cell Phone in general
3)  Email
4)  Texting
5)  Television (including Netflix, Hulu, DVR, On Demand)
6)  Kindle
7)  Computer time in general (blogging, volunteer responsibilities, etc)

I'm really looking forward to seeing where this challenge will take me and how it will test me.

How about you?  Have you done a No Technology Challenge or Media Fast?  How did it work for you?  Are you interested in joining me during "Off-Tober"?



What I'm Reading Now

Might As Well Laugh About It Now
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Plum Spooky
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Through the Grinder
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