Tuesday, September 28, 2010


So a couple years ago I really got into watching Gilmore Girls (which is sadly now off the air). Soon my mother got into it and we ended up getting the box set of all seasons on dvd. On the show, mother and daughter are financially obligated to spend Friday nights with the mother's parents (otherwise known as Friday Night Dinners). This is the grandmother's way of tricking them into spending time together. Even though on the show, the night is considered to be a dreaded event, my mom and I thought it would be good for our family to get together and replicate this event. So for the past two Friday's we have gotten together, and had dinner at each other's houses. The plan is to rotate between our three homes, and whomever's turn it is to have it at their house, cooks the main meal. The other two will cook either the side dish(es) or desert(s). This also takes the financial burden off of one person to prepare the whole thing by themselves. It's going well so far. Last Friday it was at my sister's house. My mom bought hamburgers to grill, my sister made four delicious dips, and I made mini cheesecakes for desert. This week it's at my house, but we are changing the day to Saturday so my nephew can participate. Tim and I are cooking up chicken and veggies and letting everyone make their own quesadillias so Tim can throw them on the grill. My sister is making Alabama Dip, which is a yummy combination of cheese and ground beef. My mother, however, is leaving us all in the dark on what dessert she's making. This isn't surprising though. She likes to be the one to surprise us on what she's bringing. I hope this will become a tradition with us and bring us closer together as a family.


Monday, September 27, 2010


  • Now that we have real people jobs and are out of school, our biggest goal is paying off all our debts, saving for a house, and a new(er) car for Tim. Between the two of us we have accumulated more debt than I ever wish to have again! So much, that I'm not even going to tell you the amount. Don't get me wrong, it's not as high as some people I know, just high enought that it used to give me panic attacks. To remedy this, I've spent the last year reading random financial books, all of which seem to just keep repeating themselves ("pay off your debts," "budget yourself," etc). So I just compiled the information and came up with a plan that worked for me.
  • First and foremost, please keep in mind that I am NOT in anyway shape or form giving advise. I'm simply stating what's working for me, personally. Tim and I go with what is commonly known as the snowball method. This is where you take all of your debts, organize them by smallest to largest debt, then organize them by interest rates (for example, if you have two debts that are close to or equal $10,000, list the one with the highest interest rate first). We've done this and all of our 30 year school loans and car loans will be paid off by July 2017. I know this sounds a little crazy and drastic, but it works. We owe about $900 a month in debts. My Kohl's card was the first to go. After budgeting a little, we started paying $100 a week ($400 a month) on it until it was gone. This increased our debt budget to $1,300 a month. This is the amount that will never change. My Kohl's card was paid off in a little over a month, then it was to go toward a cash loan. I owe $55 a month on my cash loan, and they are expecting it to be paid off over 15 years. Now that I don't owe on my Kohl's card, all that extra money goes toward my cash loan. I pay $455 a month on it and it is NOW scheduled to be paid off July of 2011! Big change from 2025! After that's gone, I will add the $455 to my monthly car payment of $330 (now $785/month) which will now be paid off in March of 2012. This keeps going until we get to Tim's loan (which is the highest I might add). We only owe $175/month on this loan and at the end we will be paying $1,300/month on it! This is what a little discipline can do. We went from our debts being paid off in 2040+ to 2017 (that's a gain of 33 years we're not paying! Plus don't forget that you won't be paying interest on if for those extra 33 years).
  • Now take it a little further. What if when we're done, we start putting that money in a savings account every month until 2040. Not counting gained interest we would have $514,800 over the 33 years we were scheduled to pay someone else. Tim & I would be in our 50's and have half a million dollars banked off the money that we were going to pay someone else! We would have a retirement fund, and extra money to retire comfortably at the age of 60 if we wanted to. I can't wait until 2017!


Thursday, September 23, 2010


So I've been trying to use some of my tons of fabric that I have just lying around the house. My office is stacked with containers filled with discontinued fabric samples that I've adopted from around town and from left over projects. And since we are trying to condense the office boxes, I've decided to make coasters out of these fabrics and sell them on etsy. The goal is to make up sets of four coasters to sell at $9.99 a set. Once there are ten sets made they will be posted on etsy. And I will try to constantly keep at least ten in stock at one time. I know this might seem to be a slightly higher price to pay for a set of coasters, but these aren't just thrown together light-weight fabric samples. These coasters consists of a top layer, a contrasting bottom layer, both made from upholstery grade fabric so they will be thicker than your typical cotton coasters. Plus as an added bonus, there is a layer of fleece between them to be absorbent when a glass should drip with condensation. Oh! Did I mention that I'm also paying the shipping costs as well? I've added some pictures of a set of coasters I made for my sister's birthday to give you a small idea of what they will look like. Plus, I've just inherited even more fabric from work due to mills discontinuing even more styles! Let me know what you think, and keep an eye out for them on etsy soon!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

While in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago we visited the lower ninth ward. This area was massively destroyed when hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Parts of this area were received over 20 feet of water when the levy broke in 22 different places. Houses were lost, people were killed, and the area will never be the same. Here it is five years later, and a lot of the area is abandoned and people are still trying to put their lives back together. You would never know this by the crazy night life that still goes on just a few blocks over on Bourbon Street. People are still suffering. We were fortunate enough to visit the Holy Cross Project. This is a project to rebuild some of the area and provide sustainable housing for some of the victims of this hurricane. The area where these four homes reside was previously a ship yard pre-Katrina. Future plans for the area behind these homes include a community center and a building that will house 18 apartments. We toured the first completed home and were very surprised by how far technology has come. The house is 1,120 square feet and has been rated Platinum on the LEED scale. For those of you unaware, this is the highest rating you can receive for a green building. Only 1,444 residential homes have currently been given this award and most of those are still in production. Some of the big features include solar panels, a tank-less water heater, dual-flush toilets, rain water barrels, low-VOC paint throughout the home, and low flow faucets. When we arrived, we were stopped at the door and instructed to remove our shoes and place them on the porch. The air quality in the house is perfect and by wearing our shoes in the house, we would track in dirt and air particles that would jeopardize this. There are more windows on one side of the home than the other to heat the house during the day. They even thought ahead about the summers by planting a green wall where jasmine will grow in the spring and throughout the summer to take the brunt of the heat during these hot times. However, during the winter when the jasmine dies off, the house will be warmed naturally from the sun reducing the need to heat the house heavily. The house is filled with recycled products including rugs, furniture, art, tile, carpet. I have attached a few pictures of the home, but there is no substitute for seeing it in person. The houses are very affordable (at around $149,000) and will be offered first to the residents of the community who lived there before Katrina. They also are doing what I consider to be one of the best ideas in having the houses be a part of a condominium community where the home owners will pay condominium fees that will cover the cost of repair to the homes. So if a solar panel happened to break the fees you pay would go towards repair or replacement. This is huge for houses like this! It's like extra insurance to pay for what would normally be very costly repairs. I have seen similar houses like these in Little Rock go for well over $300,000. Yes, it is expensive upfront for a home such as this, but the assurance that you're monthly bills are going to be very low (if at all, and in some cases a credit is issued) is worth it in itself. Not to mention that you are doing a great thing the environment and helping in lessening your carbon footprint.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


A few months ago I was browsing through Garden Ridge's book collection (which is about the only good thing left about Garden Ridge). The usual random craft and design books were selected. But there was one book that stood out to me. It's called "Squeaky Green." I read through the book for a whole week taking detailed notes and getting really into some of the eco-friendly methods. At the end of the book I noticed that they had a website and decided to check it out. On the website (www.methodhome.com) I found that they had products for keeping your house clean. A night or two later Tim & I made a trip to Lowes to check some of them out. We picked up shower sprays, scrubs, anywhere sprays, liquid soaps. A couple of months later, and we still love them! The book suggested not throwing away your current products, but to buy new ones as you use up your old not-so-eco-friendly.
For the liquid soap we currently have "sweet water." It's name says it all, just a light sweetness smell. The daily shower spray is great and doesn't have a harsh smell to it. The shower scrub has tiny pieces of granite in it along with a eucalyptus fragrance, which is great for clearing your sinuses! The anywhere spray is great for after dinner clean up. I even have a wish list for other products as we use up or old ones such as the floor mop. It has an ergonomic design with a washable microfiber cloth on the end (think swiffer). Then you buy polish based on the type of floor you're cleaning (wood, tile etc.). Also, there are dish tabs for your dishwasher (kind of like the finish tabs) that are on my list.
Other items that are too expensive for my taste include their laundry products. Laundry detergent and fabric softener will have to come down in price before I will even consider buying them. I still have my economical over-sized laundry soaps from Sam's to use up before I worry about that. And even then, Sam's has come out with a great smelling eco-friendly laundry detergent that is priced perfectly for our wallet!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Smorgasbord Night

In our house we always seem to end up with odds and ends of leftovers, soon to expire, and just tasty food. To remedy this, we've come up with what we call "smorgasbord night." Without any planning ahead, making unnecessary trips to the grocery store, we open up the pantry and the refrigerator and start piecing together meals. We usually end up with a cheese platter of some sort, dips and chips, and leftover bratwursts and chicken sandwiches. This night became a favorite night in our house when we were first married and money was EXTREMELY tight. These were some of the tastiest concoctions to ever be created in our kitchen.
This is a great idea to help turn over food that needs to be eaten, and forces us not to get anything from the grocery store other than bare essentials like milk, eggs, bread, and cheese. We're even planning on in the future having a smorgasbord week once a month to help clear out the pantry and cut back on our weekly grocery bill.
As of now, we normally spend about $50/week in groceries. Imagine saving that money once a month and putting it towards something else (for those of us doing the math, that's $600 in savings). More than likely, our extra money will be going towards Christmas gifts for family and friends. Most of these gifts I make so $600 goes a long way for us. Try it out, it really works and helps you keep stock of what you actually have.
Til Later,