What I spent: January 2017

Jan2017_final

In December, Chris and I had our annual goals and budget meeting. We reviewed our budget (kept in an Excel spreadsheet) and made sure each category of spending aligned correctly with a budget in Mint. We made a few changes and did some general tidying to our budget - it was so satisfying!

So January felt like a "fresh" start to our budget (always appealing) plus Chris and I made a goal of spending very little of our personal allowance money. As a result I've been tracking every dollar we/I spend in Mint - and I have been loving it.

We are each budgeted $150/month of personal allowance money. It's what we use if we buy coffee or a meal out or want to buy anything beyond groceries and what we need to have around the house. Even though $150 seems like a lot to me we both find ourselves over-spending most months. While at the same time neither of us feels like we are extravagant spenders! 

By tracking every dollar we spent this month we have both stayed well within our personal allowance budgets. PLUS we've stayed within other budgets like groceries, household services (lawn care, cleaners, other things that come up) and for home supplies (lightbulbs, etc. plus disposable diapers and wipes).

Our month of "no extra spending" was a failure in that we did each spend personal allowance money. But it was a huge success in that neither of us over-spent and it feels like we're establishing new habits of tracking every dollar. Something that helped me stay within my personal allowance budget was making sure that I reimbursed myself for things like gifts and business expenses (for my podcasts). We have separate savings accounts for those and I always mean to rectify the spending but often think, "Oh it'll work out." And what works out is that I overspend my personal allowance. No more!

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to share how I spent my personal allowance money this month. Perhaps it will be a recurring monthly feature. It's certainly a good way to stay accountable to my budget!

Personal allowance spending in January 2017: 

$24.33 - 2017 Nikki McClure calendar for my office

$17.32 - brunch out with a dear friend in Tucson. This charge is a little annoying because we actually went out at the end of December so it should have been a December expense but it didn't hit until January. 

$10 - Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to see Push Comes to Shove: Women and Power (amazing)

$7.20 - coffee and gelato post-museum with a feisty friend

$3.76 - hot tea at book club. Normally I'd get a beer and I definitely could have bought nothing...but I didn't.

$6.27 - Phoenix Women's March small registration donation + online service fee.

$39.97 - printing my Women's March poster and having it mounted on foam board at Office Max 

$10.78 - beer and a slice of pizza at book club happy hour

$7.20 - iced cold brew + delicious blondie during a Girl Next Door Podcast work session

Total spent: $126.25/$150

Even though I ended up spending more than I thought I would I feel good about it! My Women's March poster was a bit of an unexpected expense and the most expensive thing I bought. Totally worth it. I'm saving the ~$24 "left over" in my personal savings account for a rainy day.

I'm interested to see if I can remain on budget for my personal allowance going forward. One-hundred and fifty dollars can go alarmingly fast, all the more reason to track every dollar.


The Women's March | January 21, 2017

The Women's March | RISING*SHINING

On Saturday morning I bundled up (which counts as a few layers plus a fleece here in Arizona), kissed Chris and my boys goodbye, and headed downtown for the Phoenix Women's March. On the way I stopped to have a poster made of the awesome graphic shared by Joanna, which I also had printed in a smaller size to frame. 

I hadn't been sure what to expect but when I got downtown the parking lots were full and people were streaming towards the capitol. Young people, old people, families, people of all colors and abilities. I nearly started crying! At the capitol I met up with friends, took in the scene and marched through downtown. It was my first political protest and it was such a positive and invigorating experience. Throughout the day I saw pictures from friends or on social media of marches around the country - and the world! My own aunt and uncle marched in Paris. It was inspiring and powerful.

Here is what I wrote in my own social media posts about why I marched:

"Marching for equality, kindness and love. And because while our country is divided on some issues I reject the notion that we are "carnage." If we were we would not have had a peaceful transfer of power between two vastly different ideologies or peaceful protests across the country showing resilience. I am proud of our country and committed to being engaged to make it better."

Posting about something political on my blog makes me feel a little anxious. Not because I'm afraid to talk about politics or that I don't have strong opinions. But because I'd prefer to talk to you about politics and these very important issues over coffee and when I can listen to what you have to say, too. Social media is such a one way conversation and that's not the kind of conversation I want to have, or that we need to have.

But.

I decided I did want to share this experience because I feel that it is so important, and because this space is where I chronicle my life and thoughts. Participating in the Women's March is something that is going to stay with me. So is choosing action and I want to share how I'm going forward.

To choose action I am committing to:

+ Saving the phone numbers of my U.S. and state elected officials to my phone. I've saved the U.S. senators and representative numbers already and have made use of them. This week I'll save those for my state representatives. 

+ Calling my U.S. and state elected officials each twice per month. I'm thinking I'll alternate Fridays: one Friday I'll call my U.S. officials, the next I'll call my state officials. 

+ Subscribing to email list serves for organizations I want to support. I've already signed up for several including the Arizona Democrats, Arizona Planned Parenthood and the NAACP. I also the a weekly email from Wall of Us

+ Making donations throughout the year. Chris and I budgeted $600 for donations this year. (We chatted about our entire 2017 budget in a recent Matrimoney episode.)

+ Staying informed. The abundance of fake and skewed news (from both sides) is alarming and infuriating. Although I've mostly disconnected from the news I do want to find ways to stay aware. I get theSkimm daily and subscribe to Slate Political Gabfest (admittedly has a liberal bias, probably why I like it), Pantsuit Politics (many of you recommended this to me, thank you, LOVE it! Highly recommend, includes views from the left and right) and NPR Politics. I haven't been listening much since the election but maybe I'll tune back in. I also have an online subscription to the New York Times. 

+ Share what I'm doing and stay accountable. I have a circle of friends who I've been texting what I plan to do. We've agreed to keep checking in with each other to be sure we're following through on what we committed to. Sharing my commitments here also makes me feel accountable.

Do you have any other ideas for me or tips on what makes the biggest impact? 

If you feel energized and moved to take action I encourage you to make concrete plans for what you want to do. Then tell a friend and hold yourselves accountable. Sharing an article, picture or video on social media feels good but if that's where the action stops it doesn't achieve much. We can't confuse sharing an article that supports our views with taking action. Change comes from conversations, phone calls, donations, showing up, volunteering and voting.


Conversations with Dashiell & Cedric

D_c_driving

Cedric is officially joining these posts! Mostly everything he says is cute right now but he's had a couple zingers that I've been able to write down and remember. He seems to have good comedic timing already and loves doing little "bits" once he sees that he's making us laugh. Right now there's a lot of poo humor. :)

We haven't quite hit the stage where the boys are having long conversations together although I think it's super close. Ah, can't wait to hear what they'll have to say to each other.

Here's what Dashiell and Cedric have been saying lately...

A few Dash-isms that we love so much
This day = today 
Last day = yesterday, or last week
Next day = tomorrow

How Dashiell spelled his name out loud for a long time
D-A-S-H-I-E-L-L-L

Me: Good night.
Dash: Be careful in your bed...

Me: Do you know any facts about dinosaurs?
Dash: Dinosaurs have fossils in their belly!

Dash: I'm fast like emergency!

Dash: I'm not 3. I'm 61.

Dash: I want you to have another popsicle so your belly can get big like mine.

Chris has trained both boys to respond with "the bomb!" when he starts, "Daddy is the..." On a recent morning Chris made Dashiell hot chocolate at his request. But he made a pretty big mug, which Dash drank quickly and then complained of a stomach ache...
Dash: Daddy's not the bomb anymore...

Dash: We don't say poopy butt. (He's told me this several times. Ahem)

Me: How did you sleep?
Dash: Five.

Dash: There's a thousand dollars of sand in the bathtub!

Dash: After I turn 3 - you're not going to like this - I'm going to turn 4. And you're never going to see me because I'm going to be taller than you.

Me: Dash, what do you call your blanket?
Dash: Judy.
(have never heard him call it that before or since)

Dash: I'm sweaty. I need a snack. Sweaty means I'm hungry.

Dash: Don't put up your windows Daddy, or you can fall out of the car.

After bedtime one night Dash, looking very sad, walked into the front room where we were. He had one arm pulled into his shirt (a new trick)...
Dash: I'm sad because I don't have an arm.

Dash: I have chemicals in my office
(no idea on this one)

Me: What woke you up?
Dash: Well, my brain!

Dash: When I grow up, I'm going to be a T. Rex.

Dash: I have million. I'm giving away dollars.

We were playing hide and seek from Chris. I was hiding in a closet with the boys and we were pretending to be scared of Chris finding us.
As he pushes Cedric out of the closet...
Dash: Go Cedric, be brave. 

Me: Cedric, what do we have for Thanksgiving?
Cedric: Horses!

When we turned on the windshield wipers...
Dash: That's the car's tears!

Me: Dash, what's the biggest number you can think of?
Dash: ...38!

Dash: Where ever you are, you are with me.

Me: Dash, what's the most important thing.
Dash: To love your family.

Cedric: Toots, guys!

More conversations with Dashiell & Cedric


Home style Photo Streams to collect ideas and save money

Collect home ideas + save money | RISING*SHINING

I love making our home cozy and functional. It's essentially a project I'm always working on. And finally, after eight years, I'm starting to feel confident in how I want to decorate and style our home. I have a lot of ideas about the yard, too. But all these ideas often lead me to want things for the house, which can quickly translate to spending money.

This year, Chris and I have an aggressive savings goal of $20,000. We chatted our our 2017 budget and savings goals in a recent Matrimoney episode if you'd like all the details. Our savings goal is possible but it requires sticking to our budget. Lots of spending for this and that around the house won't help us get there. 

Even though I can't spend a lot I still love collecting ideas for our house and yard. It helps me learn how to get the look I want, or to figure out a cheaper solution than buying new. Sometimes just capturing an idea and sitting on it lets me let go of the desire to change something or get something new entirely; I realize that what we've got is just fine.

Pinterest is great for collecting ideas, and I love to use it, but it doesn't help me when I'm browsing Target, an antique store or a plant nursery. Me at all of these places: "I want EVERYthing!"

So I figured out something to help: take a picture!

Collect home ideas + save money | RISING*SHINING

Apparently I'm REALLY into giant pinecones. So if you're looking for a gift for me...

I had this idea while using iPhone Photo Stream, the shared photo album option in your Photos app if you're rocking an iPhone. If not, a shared Google Photos album is the same idea. And you know I love organizing photos with Google Photos

I already use Photo Streams for sharing pictures of the boys with friends and family, and for sharing podcast photos with Erica. I realized that I could create home style Photo Stream albums that were just for me, and that they would be a great way to "park" things that I want to buy. It's a similar idea to Pinterest except with my own photos.

So I created two home style Photo Streams for myself: DECOR and PLANTS. Essentially it's for inside the house and for our yard. I'm happy to report that these are helping me so much!

Collect home ideas + save money | RISING*SHINING Collect home ideas + save money | RISING*SHINING

Now I take photos to avoid buying impulsively or when I see something that inspires me. Recently I've been leafing through old issues of Sunset magazine to get ideas for our yard. When I see something I like I just snap a photo and add it to the PLANTS album. And when I visited a friend in Tucson we walked around a cute neighborhood and I snapped lots of pictures of desert-scaled yards.

Taking a photo is strangely satisfying and removes the back and forth worrying over "should I get this?" Now the answer is, "Not right now."

The impulse to buy is so crazy. In the moment acquiring something new feels so important. But for me, making the decision not to buy and walking away without spending extra money is much more satisfying.

 


For the love of grocery lists and spreadsheets

171_grocerylist

What you see above is my new and improved grocery list. It makes me ridiculously happy. So does talking about grocery list habits (totally serious). So let's talk about it. 

Let me answer a few questions. Yes, the columns are arranged by aisle content at my Trader Joe's. And yes, our most frequently purchased items are listed according to where they are in the store. And yes! there is a spot for listing meals and items to purchase elsewhere (Target/other grocery store) at the bottom. I KNOW. 

Designing a grocery list template like this is something I had on my mental to-do list forever. Finally I made the time to do it. And like many things that I put off, it ended up taking maybe 30 minutes and I wondered why it had taken me so long to do it.

To make the template I created a spreadsheet in Excel and organized the columns to reflect the aisles at our Trader Joe's (where we shop each week). Since I had the room, I have most columns reflect just one side of one aisle. So if I were a tiny shopper in this spreadsheet I'd be walking down the line dividing the columns, grabbing jam from the right and vitamins and toilet paper on the left.

Then I added our frequently bought items on the correct "aisle." I was able to do this mostly from memory but as I find a frequent item that I missed I just update the template. I'm also finding that our frequently bought items change over time, so I'll update the template accordingly.

To make a grocery list I indicate an item that we need by circling it. If we need something that's not already on the template I'll write it on the correct "aisle" and then circle it. I prefer to take a highlighter to the grocery store and cross items off that way. Because I'm adventurous that way.

The best part about this layout is that it's exactly how my mom made our grocery list when I was growing up. So now you know where I get it.

I printed about 10 of these and have them clipped to the side of the fridge. Also on the side of the fridge is a small white board where we jot down items we run out of or need throughout the week. So when I sit down to make a grocery list I grab a grocery list template and first circle or write in any items from the whiteboard.

At the bottom I write out dinner ideas or anything special we are going to make (like if we are hosting friends for dinner).  Then I circle or write in and circle items that we'll need for those meals/recipes and round out the grocery list with anything else we need. Such as BOURBON for maple bourbon ciders on my big Christmas Eve/Christmas shopping list above. 

And if you are not already convinced to give this a whirl, have I mentioned that one day at Trader Joe's a 60s-ish man stopped to admire my grocery list and proceed to ask if he could take me home with him? Still got it, guys. But honestly, it was not creepy and he kept exclaiming to his wife throughout his shopping trip about my organized list. This is the kind of first impression you want to make on people! 

I'd love to hear how you make your grocery list! I've tried an app but I hate having to take my phone out a million times at the store and keep waking it up. For now old fashioned paper is working for me. Grocery list-making is one of those weird topics that seems mundane but that completely fascinates me. So do tell!