Friday, November 29, 2013

End of the month review

After a wonderful Thanksgiving, its time to review my goals for November.
Mostly, I just wanted to reign in my grocery budget and I did better than last month.
Last month I spent over $1500 for groceries and eating out.
This month, (even though I have 1 more day to go), I made it closer to $1000.
I say that is a great step toward my $600 goal.  
I am trying hard to stop eating out.  I have to admit that I ate out more than I should have.
But, less than before.  
Many days we would just keep driving and I would come home and cook.
Even if it was at 9 pm at night.

Another goal I had was trying to get moving and exercise some.  
Did not happen.  I need to get healthier and fit but I am too lazy and busy to do it.
I know, excuses excuses.  

I also stopped volunteering at our homeschool bookstore, because now I get paid for the day I volunteer.
That's a little bit extra income coming into the home.  I think I will use it for my miscellaneous budget.

Another goal I have is to pay off my cars in 2 1/2 years.  
The van has about 13 months left on the note and I am paying extra on each payment.
If I continue I might shave off about 4 months.  After I pay that off I am adding extra to the second car.

Looking forward to December I know that I will have some budget busters like 
Basketball fees
I know Dave Ramsey would say that Christmas happens at the same time every year.  
But since we are just starting our financial journey I didn't quite plan for Christmas.

I will be posting my goals for December soon.
I am not going overboard.  Just a few goals in each area.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I am grateful for my hubby, who works so hard for us.
I am thankful for my children who are healthy and strong.
I am thankful for the strength that Heavenly Father gives me to care for my family.
I know I couldn't do it without His loving care.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Food Budget

My hardest goal to meet is our food budget.  I just can't seem to figure out what is normal for a family our size or what we can afford to spend.  I used to buy groceries before everything and blow our budget, now I buy after but still manage to blow our budget.
A few months ago I signed up for is a website that links to your accounts and keeps track of your spending.  Its free, so I signed up.  I linked the account I wanted to keep track of and maybe checked it a few times..then I forgot about it.
A week ago, I decided to log back in.  I then used one of the tools available that shows you in graph form where your money went.  I went back to October and checked our food expenditures.  Anything I labeled as food or was automatically labeled by the site as food purchases were added into the portion of the graph.  Wow, was I surprised when I saw the totals.  I had just commented to someone that maybe we spend $800 to $900 in food..including fast food..oh boy, was I wrong.  My total for the month of October was over $1500.
That is a lot of money.  Almost double the amount I though I had spent..DOUBLE.
What a rude awakening.  No wonder our budget is so out of control.  I had no idea it was so much.  I had no clue what I was spending.  
I made our December budget yesterday.  I only budgeted $600 for the whole month.  Is that reasonable, is it realistic?  I am not sure but I know it can't be much more because our goals to pay off debt are very important to us.  Very important.  I am hoping that $300 twice a month is going to cut it.  And only eating out 2 times a month. Hmmm..we don't have much luck with limiting the eating out.  But, we have to be strict.  
I'm a little curious about November, not because I expect much difference, but because I was becoming more aware of what I was spending.  Apparently, not as aware as I thought.  
It would be interesting to see though.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I hate when I start doubting myself.  I was so excited to start my plans to become a fiscally responsible person but last night I started to doubt myself.  I know it was stupid and I shouldn't even dwell on such things.

I know doubts are the adversaries way to derail you from your intended goal.  I think all the opposition I have been dealing with is also a sure sign that I should press forward.  My plans aren't necessarily spiritual but they can lead to some real spiritual gains. 
For example, if I can trim my expenses, pay tithing and and fast offering I accomplished a spiritual goal.
If I can have a generous savings and emergency found, we can help fund our son's mission.
If we can get completely out of debt, live within our means then I can help fund many missions.  That is my dream.  To help fund many missions.  

Short term goals are all about the money, honey..but my long term goals are all spiritual

I need to stop doubting my ability and just press forward.  I know I have a long road ahead, but its doable and I can sacrifice now for gains later. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fiscal planning

My husband works 3 jobs.  One full time and two part-times.  We hardly see him, and I think its time to change that.  I named this blog Character Changes and living a responsible fiscal life is part of that change.  I have tried many, many times to make that change and I have failed.  Well, I haven't failed miserably because I have learned a few things each time I tried changing.   This time, I hope we succeed more than the last few times.
I have read Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, and I even worked for Primerica so its not like I don't know what to do.  I can tell you what to do, I can make plans to help others succeed, but it just wasn't that easy for our family.  Finally, it dawned on me that I am sick and tired of having my husband gone all day, every day and trying to fit everything in on his one and only day off.  He has two, but one day he goes to we have Wednesday off.  Not all of Wednesday, mind you..only Wednesday evening.  That is not cutting it anymore.
I have now put my foot down.  I hope I have put it down hard enough.  I am ready to make a plan for us.  I am ready to slash and save and do whatever it takes.  My family is not as supportive as I had hoped.  What is my plan?  "People don't plan to fail, but they fail to plan"  I'm all about plans and I have plans coming out of my ears. Our problem is not plans but follow through.  So, yes I have a plan and yes, I will let you know.  But where I need help is following through with those plans.
First, I am not going to do all or nothing.  That's one sure way to fail.
Second, I am not cutting everything all at once.
Third, I need accountability, so I will blog about it.

Ok, here is the plan:

Our budget is out of control and my husbands solution is to work more.  That is not working for us.  I looked through my budget and found things to cut.  The main one is our cell phone plan.  It's eating us up alive.  I have tried calling and asking for some help in trimming it, but even though they were very helpful it just not enough.  We do have a contract and we still have a few months left on that contract.  So, my plan is to cancel the plan, buy a month to month and save the rest.  At least $200.  Yes, I know that I will have a fee to worry about and I have a plan for that.
The second part of this plan is to work toward Baby Step 1.  Dave Ramsey has 7 baby steps toward financial freedom and baby step 1 is to save $1000 asap.  So, I gave myself about 6 weeks to 3 months to come up with that.  After baby step 1, we can start on baby step 2, which is to pay off debt and the first on that list will be our cell phone plan.  After that we will snowball our cell phone saving toward the next largest bill, then the next and so on.

That's my plan, and we are sticking to it.

Another part of the plan is to limit eating out and include that in our over all budget.  I wanted to try the envelope system, but I am not ready for that I think.  It's not that I haven't gone cash only, I have.  But, I think it would be too much at one time.  So, I am going to stick to working on our budget, keeping receipts and try to figure out where our money goes.  Groceries and eating out are a major drain and gas used to be too.
We are a family of 9 with 6 kids still at home.  We need to work on this area of our budget pronto.  I have started working on a monthly menu (which I have done before) and will try monthly shopping.   I don't think I will be able to go a month between shopping but if I can limit my trips and buy the staples I know I can save some time and money.  As for eating out, its a must but not every day.  We don't have time for fun activities, so eating out has become our family outing.  I am going to try to limit it to only 2-3 times a month instead of 2-3 times a week.

One other problem I face with menu planning is trying to figure out lunches that are healthy, cheap, and gluten free.  Every time I make a menu lunches tend to be sandwiches, sandwiches, pasta, and hot dogs.  All full of gluten and no, we don't want to use gluten free bread or pasta.  My son, uses some gluten free pasta but the rest of the family will not eat them.    Lunch menus are a work in progress.

Above all, I had been working on one major part of our budget and that is paying tithing.  We are doing a lot better in that area, but still need more consistence.  I have a testimony about tithing and feel extremely guilty when we don't do what is right.  I didn't want to deal with it and felt it was my husband responsibility and not mine.  I know now, that its OUR responsibility and if my husband is too busy with work and school than I must step up and make sure that we do what is right.  We are a team.

So, Tithing, Baby Step 1 and 2, and the grocery budget are the major changes I need to make.  It won't happen right away but as long as I feel like we are working on our goals, things will be ok!

Monday, November 4, 2013

My "To Be" list?

I love creating lists.  To do lists, grocery lists, chore lists, book lists, budget name it, and I have probably tried to list it.  But, I have never thought of making a "To Be" list.  What in the world is a To Be list?  I had never heard of one until this weekend, during a Time Out for Women conference, just in passing.  The speaker said "When you make your to do list, or even your To Be lists remember blah blah blah."  I can't remember what she finished up with because I was suddenly thrilled to know that there was another list I could start using.  A To Be list.

What will go into my To Be list?  What do I want to become?  Well, I have been thinking of this for a couple of days and I have no earthly idea what I want to be.  Fortunately for me, this morning on NPR, there was a show on TED Talks about Success!!!  Yes!!  Now I know what I can do to become successful.  Except, I didn't understand from those talks, what I needed to do to become successful.  Tony Robbins said "Follow your passion"..But then Mike Rowe said "Don't follow your passion, are you crazy"  I'm paraphrasing of course.  The next speaker said "Smile!!!"  Another said if you don't have grit, forget it.  The final talk was on a kinder way to frame success..pretty much..stop envying.  Listen to them, you might not get what I got, but they are interesting.

I am still wondering, about my to be list.  It finally dawned on me to figure out what my Father in Heaven considers success.  Hmm?  Follow the commandments, love your family, return to Me, be of service to others, spread My Gospel and be like Me. I also have been thinking of my spiritual success.  I am sorely lacking in that arena.  Usually, because I want to do it all, and I want to do it all RIGHT NOW.  Not possible, believe me, I have tried.

I was still pondering my To Be list, when I realized: I know who I am already.  I am a Daughter of our Heavenly Father, who loves me and I love Him.

I found my To Be list.  All those traits are what I want to be.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

schedule update

Its Friday!!!  And I have to say that we kept up with our homeschool schedule for at least 80% of our homeschool schedule.  Not our housework schedule, but its a start.

Our planner sheets are working great to keep us on our toes.  Its also a great visual for me.

Here is how the week turned out.

Monday's are the only day that we can devote all day to homeschool and we did. Tuesday's I work at the homeschool store for the day and then we have church activities or basketball.  Wednesday we worked on some daily subjects.  Wednesday is also my hubby's only day off, so we follow his lead as much as possible.  This week we had Basketball tryouts on our normal Co-op days, which are on Thursday and Friday.  We missed one and the other is starting back up in October.  I normally try not to schedule school work on these days due to the co-ops but I had them do some make up work anyway.  I have also scheduled Saturday as a homeschool day because of the interruptions during the week.  Here is what we did this week:

Scriptures-  We are working our way though the Old Testament AGAIN.  We did it last year, but since our new co-op is doing Ancient History, we are going through it again.  We worked on Genesis this week.

Math-  Teaching Textbooks is a great curriculum for us after trying so many different math programs.  I am using Teaching Textbooks 3.  I only purchased one book and I am copying the lessons for both my 8 and 10 year old. They are learning Angles and geometry. My 16 son is using Teaching Textbooks for Geometry and my 14 yo daughter is using ACE's workbooks for Algebra.  She loves the paces workbooks.

History-  We are using Tapestry of Grace very loosely.  We read Story of the World (2 chapters)   (for the 10 and 8 year olds)  We covered Hammurabi and Gilgamesh.   My daughter is using Paces for most of her subjects plus she reads some living history books.  We also listen to the audio of Mysteries in History for the co-op.  One day of the week we read Famous Stories Retold and next week I am added one Plutarch chapter.

Language Arts-  Daily, we do copywork, Journaling, and Cursive Writing.  We also use First Language Lessons level 3 for both my 10 year old and 8 year old.  My 16 has almost all his English credits through a homeschool English class he attended where he sometimes took 2 classes at a time.

Spelling:  I got a new curriculum and will start it next week.

Science-We worked on the skeletal system and will need to catch up to the co-op.  We also read from Christian Liberty Press books.

Art-  Started on the artist Picasso using a curriculum I downloaded for free some time ago.

Reading-Kids have to read 15 minutes a day, two days out of the week we read as a family.  I need to work on this and make it a regular nightly ritual.  But, right now I am working on my morning routine and then we will work on our evening routine.

Languages-  We are doing Hebrew with the co-op and Spanish on our own.  Eventually, I need to add Greek.  We started last year but dropped it.  I am going to wait until we get into a groove, but might take it one day a week.

I think that's it, but I might have forgotten something.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New week, New schedule

A new weeks starts tomorrow and I decided to prepare for it.
I made charts for the kids to add to their folders so they can be a little more independent in their work.
Included are pages for copywork, writing, math for the week, and their charts that allows them to sign off what has been done.  I get a lot of organizational ideas from some wonderful blogs.  One of my faves is Our Busy Homeschool.   I loved her posts on homeschooling, organization and even spiritual enrichment.  This post on notebooks was a great catalyst for me to get my kids and myself organized.
Between great blogs and wonderful books, I think I might be getting the hang of this.
So what's up for the week?  

The boys are working on
Scripture Study: which includes morning personal reading of scriptures and family devotional.

Copywork: (handwriting practice using great literature)-  10 commandments

Journal:  Pretty much self explanatory.  Kids must write in it daily

History:  We are doing Story of the World/Tapestry of Grace and Mysteries of History.  A little bit of each plus I am adding a book to read as a family.

Reading:  15 minutes silent reading.

Language:  Hebrew and Spanish, maybe restart Latin.

Science Apologia Anatomy

Shakespeare: Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare 

Plus we are doing 2 co-ops.  :D

As the weeks come and go, I will be adding more subjects like Language Arts, which the kids are doing.  I just need to wiggle it in somewhere in my new schedule.  

Even though I have been homeschooling for years, I am still learning when it comes to organization.  I am very grateful for those moms who put themselves out on blogs because I truly learn from them.  

I have a long road ahead of me when it comes to organization and homeschooling and housework etc, but I am really excited to start on it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I have tried and tried and tried to work on schedules.  I have purchased numerous planners, all kinds.  Mom planners, executive planners, home school planners, large family name it I probably purchased.  Here's the problem:  I have never ever used one consistently.
I've tried to create one on the computer. I've tried to use notebooks, pretty markers, nice paper, ordinary paper,  3 ring binders, notebooks, note pads. I have tried everything and I am still not organized.  So, I took a hard look, where I didn't want to look.  In the mirror.  I can't make planners work for me if I don't follow through with the plan.  LIGHT BULB moment.
I've got my AHA moment, so, now what.  Well, I need to get yours truly to work on being organized, on following through, on getting up and doing something.
I am starting small.

  • step one:  Figure out my mornings.
This might be easy for all you type A personalities.  I am more like a type X or Z personality.  I am trying to move up the alphabet a little.  Here's the thing.  I WANT  to do everything, I PLAN to do everything but normally do nothing.  

Here's my plan and also my problem
I plan to have my morning routine become a habit by only adding a few steps at a time.  Easy right?  Well, you would think. My problem is my night time routine.  I normally go to sleep very very late due to habit and that hubby works late and comes home late.  But, I want to get up early and get a good start on my day.  Problem 2.  I do get up early to take my kids to seminary which starts at 6 am.
What's the problem?  Why can't I just stay up and get my day moving?  Well, because I probably went to bed at 2 am and 3 1/2 hours will not cut it for sleep.  I get up at 5:30 am, rush to get ready and make it to seminary at 6 am.

So, many of you might see the obvious problem there, but not Miss.  I have to follow the schedule to the T.  Nope.  I just peter out and feel terrible for failing.  I think I have come up with a solution.
Come home, SLEEP, and then start your schedule.
Wow, could it be that easy?  Can I schedule myself to sleep and then get up refreshed and start the day on my terms?
Remember, I homeschool and that gives me that luxury.  I am sure if I had to send kids to school in the morning, I would just sleep after they left.  Hey, I need my sleep.  I need at least 8 hours.
Going to bed early is not an option because I would never see my hubby, and I won't see him in the early AM because he works early most days too.  So, that is not an option.
Well, I have gotten some idea for my morning routine:

  • Get up (no time posted)
  • pray
  • read scriptures
  • family devotional
I have given this schedule to the little's so they too can start their mornings on a schedule.  One extra thing for them is to make beds and tidy their room.
I am using a new type of program that is helping me think this through.  Its called Managers of their home.
I'm still reading through it and working on a schedule but it has helped me THINK about a schedule and how our life and family works.  One thing I learned is to remember that a schedule will go through lots of changes.  Another great thing I learned is to let God guide you.  Hmm?  So true.

How's it going you ask?  Well, its going.  Its not a habit yet but I am giving us a week before we add another task to our morning routine.  

Remember, we are not robots, we are human beings who are 1. Imperfect and 2.  well, human.
I'll keep you updated
What is your morning routine?  Is it consistent or are you a fly by the seat of your pants person?