Christmas Success

So today was a success! I finally tried out my signature gift for Christmas and I was thrilled with it.

The recipe was perfect and tasty. Frankly this is my new favourite hot chocolate mix.

Next up: to find the perfect sized mason jar to hold this sumptuous goodness.

 

 

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Budget Room

I have mentioned multiple times that I don’t budget using my complete income. When I was in debt that allowed me to pay a lot toward my debt without feeling constricted.

Now it’s a bit different. ML recommended I put a set amount on his debt so I can treat it like a bill. This would allow me to give myself breathing room and the opportunity to use some of the ‘free money’ to treat myself.

Here’s a big change: treating myself is now watching my savings grow so I can spend the money on meaningful things. That’s definitely some big personal growth!!

Chandler Bing dancing on a coffee table

 

I had a few ideas of where I could put the money:

I spent some time reviewing my posts on each of these topics and realized that my extra money would be best used in the Gifts line. Christmas is only 4 months away and I’m back to having $0 saved as I’ve used the savings line consistently over the course of the year.

This plan allows me to treasure the room I have so I don’t dip into debt to cover costs when I go over budget while ensuring that I know that the ‘breathing room’ money has a secondary purpose.

 

Debriefing August 2016

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

TRACKING

  •  # Buy nothing days :12 days
  • # times used S’mores Maker (aiming for 8 uses in 2016): 2+0=2
  • # times used champagne saucers (aiming for 7 uses in 2016): 4+0=4
  • # times ate out:6
  • # activities with friends/family: 15
  • % over or under budget: 1% over budget
  • % of goal put toward ML’s debt:100%

CELEBRATE:

  • I spent over $100 more on bills than anticipated but was way less than $100 over budget!
  • I did a lot of work in our home that resulted in the space feeling even better.
  • That one percent over budget is the exact amount of my last purchase which was for Bunny as I’ve found a medication for her to try for her arthritis and as I was there I opted to purchase food for her.

DIP INTO SAVINGS/CREDIT

  • Used medical line to pay for therapy
  • Used my gift line for presents
  • Used my home renovation line to put a down payment on a sectional

KEEP IN MIND

  • September is going to be a busy month work-wise so I need to be flexible both with my budget and myself
  • Bunny may be seeing an increase in her budget line as we’re getting her things to help her legs.
  • No is a complete sentence! I need to learn how to say it nicely to people when their suggested events do not fit into our budget. This is from last month but it’s still true and definitely something I struggle with.

OVERALL

This month was fantastic! Yes, I went over budget but since I paid my furniture bill twice I’m not feeling badly about it. This just means that I will be done payments 1 month earlier than anticipated.

I’ve noticed that I’m consistently over-budget no matter how hard I try to stay within it. Something always seems to happen. This isn’t awful but it’s a reminder that I seem to consistently push my limits. When I’m over budget for something that helps me in the long run, I don’t mind it. This is the case in August. I’m over budget by a bit less than the extra furniture payment. In my mind this is a win.

I’m also pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel stretched to my limit in Auugst considering that I had ~$100 less to play with it. 1% over budget when I had that experience is absolutely amazing!

Image courtesy arztasumia via freedigitalphotos.net

 

$0 turns into $1200

So I cleaned up the rec room and it looks fantastic!

We’ve wanted a sectional for the last two years but had decided we would wait until the basement looked close to perfect and we had found a room layout we felt really good about before beginning to shop. Well all the hard work paid off and we think we’ve found the set up that works beautifully for the space.

So a quick check of the budget let us know we had a little over $1,100 in the home improvement savings line. With this figure in mind we went shopping. It turns out that a sectional that meets all our needs for  less than $1,100 is near impossible to find but we did end up finding the perfect set for us. It is higher than budgeted but has the bonus feature of being able to be bought in pieces.

For a little under $1200 we could get the 2 pieces we wanted to create the sectional and if we really want the additional piece that would make it we can save for the arm-less chair that will go in the middle giving us some additional seating.

It looks something like this

01-16.19.25.33_sectional_liam-16.19.25.33.jpg

I’m in a bit of shock as that hard earned money isn’t going to the kitchen that I’ve spent loads of time moaning about but to our rec room on a single piece of furniture. ML and I didn’t go into this blindly though. We had a good conversation about our rec room and where we spend time.

The rec room does a lot of work:

  • It’s the space where ML spends most of his time at home
  • It’s where we hang out as a couple
  • We host game and movie nights here

It’s really the heart of the home, I think I’m going to rename it to the family room as that’s really the function it plays. As summer comes to a close we’re going to spend even more time in here as all the outdoor entertainment and relaxing is going to happen in this room.

Looking at it this way I don’t feel badly about using all my home improvement money on a piece of furniture. Having shopped around and tested pieces I know that we’re getting something that is a great deal and extremely comfortable.

The new furniture will be here in 3 weeks so now we’ve got to figure out how to get rid of the current futons that are in there. They’re in pretty rough shape so I’m not looking to make money but I’m hoping that we don’t have to pay anyone to take them off our hands.

Do you have any tips on how to send the futons to a new home?

 

Sectional from here

Moving around

When taking photos there were two rooms I avoided: Bunny’s and the rec room.

Bunny has the second largest room in the house. It contains her hutch, her ‘pantry’, and a small filing cabinet. The built in cupboard is tiny and has random office supplies and excess toiletries. Her room is often messy and looks quite sparse.

The rec room, on the other hand, is overflowing. Four years ago ML completely renovated it. As Bunny was living there she was relocated to her new room since she and ML have different tastes. She really goes for the distressed floor boards look which was a major point of contention between them.

At that time the plan was that the room would be ML’s area. I have taken over most of the house so this would be his place to relax and unwind. I recognize that this sounds exclusive but it really isn’t. I think it’s necessary for each person in a home  to have a place they can really express themselves. For me it’s our living room. Everything there is geared towards my desire for a restful room.

While its ML’s space it’s also shared space as all our books, games and movies, workout items as well as my crafts are there. Full disclosure: when I get into a project I’m a mess. Well that’s not a relaxing place for anyone. When I went to take photos I realized that the reason the room looked shabby was because my things were everywhere.

The other piece I realized was that the rec room has too many jobs and some if them are conflicting. Most of our rooms have a maximum  of three jobs. The rec room had 6:

  • Work out
  • Craft
  • Watch movies and relax
  • Entertain
  • Budget and do basic home office functions
  • Have serious family conversations

Knowing that these two rooms weren’t being treasured we decided to make a change. It took three days of moving and KonMarie exercises but we feel much better!

Bunny’s room now has all her things and is functioning as my craft room. We moved one of the bookcases there and everything fits in it with space! I also put a folding table and an office chair.

The table meant that some of the office supplies in the cupboard got to be moved and are now in use. We opted for the folding table as we don’t enjoy cluttering our basement with outdoor furniture in the winter. Come winter one of the outdoor dining tables will live in Bunny’s room. Not only does the room look more inviting but we’re hoping it leads to all three of us being tidier.

With one bookshelf out of the basement as well as a bunch of craft bins off the floor it already looked better. However, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to revisit KonMarie. We got rid of loads of DVDs ($50!!) and have a large stash of books to find new homes for as well.

These changes meant I got to rearrange the bookcases so we now have 3 cases of books and 1 of games. The entertainment unit is also much lighter.

I knew it looked good because I felt so much better walking into the room but it was nice when we had people over to hear them remark on the difference.

It was amazing that with $0 we managed to transform 2 rooms and make more welcoming spaces.

 

Touring Homes

In spite of not wanting to move, ML and I often get curious about homes that go up for sale so we hop online and take a virtual tour. It’s always interesting as I love seeing how other people decorate their homes as well as checking out architectural features in light of the changes we’d like to make to our kitchen.

A few years ago I watched in awe as a friend sold her home. The staging that went into creating stunning photos was amazing.  One of the things she mentioned was how great it was to live in a home that was geared toward function and looking good. After one of my visits with her in that time period, I  returned home and started taking photos of the rooms.

It turned out that by taking photos of the rooms I was able to pick up on little details that allowed me to focus and fix items that were out of place. In the kitchen, this meant realizing that some of the items on the counter needed to find a new home.

After doing some virtual touring this weekend I got curious about how our home was looking. I took my phone and started snapping. It was fantastic to learn that our home didn’t require a lot of changes to photograph well.

As the shots focus my attention I’m able to see the things that are holding our space back. While some rooms would benefit from an overhaul (Kitchen!), for the most part it was tidying that was needed.

It’s amazing the low level mess that creeps in! Through taking those photos I was able to adjust our room, the spare room and our hall closet. Suddenly things I didn’t realize were bothering me have been fixed.

The other benefit was by treating our home a bit like a showpiece I was able to admire it for all the things it does.

Furnishing

I’m on a home update kick! I began writing a really long post that didn’t flow very well so I’m going to post a home update series as I’m really excited about some of the things we’re doing!

 

One of my consistent goals is making our home an oasis. Most days I love our space but every so often I crave a change. Usually a good cleaning and tidy makes all the difference and I’m happy again.

ML and I are pretty low key with our home, we’re happy to have serviceable items and will update if the item fits a need and our budget. This is how we got my hanging chair which I adore!

We’ve been in our home for 6 years and we very slowly furnished our living room. In fact it’s been so slow that we only finished it this past weekend. For the longest time we had a garden chair in the living room as I wasn’t able to find the chair I wanted to fit a very specific corner.

Then Saturday, I walked by a garage sale and there it was: the perfect chair in my favourite colour. I messaged ML as we consider any new furniture a ‘big purchase.’ So we both have to agree on it. I can’t imagine anything worse than having to see something I hate every day! Luckily he loved it and for the steep price of $10 we had the chair (which had recently been professionally cleaned) and our living room is complete!

It’s basically a red version of one of these and it’s insanely comfortable.

curved living room chairs

The only thing left to do is to stain the coffee table in the living room as it was previously owned by someone who thought coasters weren’t important.

photo from here.

 

Learning Curve

I have had to re-assess how I manage my funds and it has definitely been a process. After buckling down for a year and following a set schedule I’ve had a bit of a strange time adjusting.

I’ve been doing fairly well but the adjustment to using money when I actually have it has been interesting. For example, I had set a payment to be deducted the day before it was due. I realized that was just poor planning on my part so I fixed it. Sort of. Since you can’t adjust payments on my banking system I paid it early but I didn’t delete the original planned transfer.

So I’ve tightened my budget my already constrained August finances. This is sometimes the part where I hide a bit and try not to think about the budget. Instead, I took time today to download my bank information  and see where I stand. It turns out that somehow it’s currently coming out in the wash.

Here’s what my anticipated budget looked like with my actual spending beside it:

Variable Costs  Actual  Anticipated
Bunny 17.9 30
Eating out 79.54 70
Entertainment 70.84 65
Fashion 18.08 35
Gas 40.73 40
Groceries 102.87 $200
Misc. 123.16 80
Total $453 $520

Now, it would be easy for me to still overspend if I don’t adjust my anticipated costs to help guide me through the next two weeks. So I re-arranged finances so I feel like I’m not over budget in an area:

Bunny 17.9 30
Eating out 79.54 80
Entertainment 70.84 70
Fashion 18.08 20
Gas 40.73 40
Groceries 102.87 $200
Misc. 123.16 80
Total $453 $520

Now the only area that I’m significantly over is my Misc. Line. This is because the bill payment came out of here.

I thought I might feel a bit stuck looking at these numbers and while I definitely have concerns about stretching $67 over the next two weeks I’m not driving myself insane. Since I don’t budget with my actual income, I know that I’ve got a bit of breathing room if I do go over budget, which is looking likely.

Knowing that I’m only in this position because I double paid a bill, not because of reckless spending, leaves me feeling good about the rest of the month.

Now to make sure that Bunny and us are properly fed for the next 2 weeks on $67!

Do you have frugal recipes you’d like to share?

Planning Christmas II

Now that I’ve created my list it’s time to fill in the details. These are subject to change but I have noted the items that have already been purchased or made

I’m hoping that having it laid out like this  will help keep me on track.

  • 9 peppermint hot chocolates
  • Date night gift card
  • Tea cozy & ???
  • 2 shirts
  • Night in gift set: slippers, hot chocolate, cake in a mug (mostly purchased)
  • $50 gift card
  • Knit shawl (made)
  • Food gift pack  (purchased)
  • Girl’s night out/ craft kit
  • Baked good
  • Cake in a mug, kitchen tools, soap shaker and martini glass (purchased)
  • 2  other things tbd
  • Not sure for grandmothers
  • Family 1: food gift pack, tokens for kids
  • Family 2: whiskey & wine in knit gift bags; cookbook and ?; ?
  • Family 3: ???
  • Maximum $50 toy

ML has asked for a rather expensive present earlier this year so I’ve budgeted $250 for his gift.

What are some of your favourite presents?

 

Preparing for Christmas

Last Christmas I started saving in October for Christmas and quickly realized I had underestimated the amount of gift giving we do.

This year, I’ve created my list based on last year’s revelation that we purchase for about 30 people.

  • 3 colleagues
  • 3 – 6 parties
  • ML
  • My parents individually
  • My parents as a couple (this is the Bunny gift)
  • My sibling and partner
  • ML’s parents individually
  • ML’s sibling and partner
  • 3-5 friends I see around this time
  • ML’s grandmother
  • My grandmother
  • 3 families of 4 people
  • Favourite kid

I had intended to save a bit throughout the year towards this goal. That didn’t really pan out as I have spent all my gift savings so far. This was a blessing in disguise as it has highlighted for me that we aren’t cheap when it comes to gift giving.

While I was ambitious last year and focused on making a variety of gifts and treats, this year I’ve decided on a signature gift to be given to colleagues, as hostess gifts, and for those last minute folks that pop up. The family members and close friends will receive more personalized items.

My hope is that by choosing a signature gift for the season I won’t feel overwhelmed and end up purchasing last minute items. Choosing one item means that I also won’t be purchasing multiple ingredients.

I fell in love with this pretty peppermint hot chocolate.

Now to test it to see if it is as tasty as it looks!

What do you think of this gift?