Frugality Report: October

By on November 3, 2017

Here’s our monthly Frugality Report! Yeah, I haven’t done one of these since last winter… oops! Let’s get back into the swing of things and talk about ways the COD crew saved money and spent money in October. 

Frugality Flops


Car
. Well, we bought a new-to-us car this month. I’ll get into why we deemed it more of a frugal win later, but for now, it’s still more expensive than not buying one! 

Credit Card. We paid for the car with plastic. Ugh. It was stupid and lazy, to pay via credit card when the bank was just across town. We could have gotten the cash on the spot, but chose to go the other route. Oh well, at least it’s paid in full, so there’s no car payment and no interest!

Fees. Our old credit card, which neither of us use anymore, comes with a lovely fee that was due this month. I forgot all about that card (it’s a travel rewards card), and when I saw the monthly statement, it was a “D’oh!” moment for sure. Wish we’d closed that account, since we never even use it. 

FRUGAL HIGHFIVES

Food. We made some terrific meals at home this month! We only went out for one fast-food dinner and a few donuts here and there. I’m personally super happy that ’tis the season for casseroles and toasty warm soups, so I’ve been pulling out my old stand-bys. I’m also getting pretty good at my fave artisan bread recipe! So easy and can’t even compare with store-bought bread! 

Furniture. After our move to Kentucky, we debated about purchasing a new bedroom furniture set. You know, just to feel a bit more grown-up and settled. Sometimes when your home is furnished with all hand-me-downs, it can feel a little weird. We didn’t necessarily have what we would’ve picked, but what our relatives and friends were getting rid of. So we eyed and admired some matching sets online and in stores for a brief time.

However, we ended up eschewing a new bedroom set because my parents are working on downsizing. Their house contains a good deal of furniture which they had kindly offered us. Hence, we finally accepted the furniture offer since my old bedroom has a perfectly good set of items. 

When in-laws COD visited earlier in October, they brought the first of two dressers for us. I can at last put away my clothes properly, rather than in a cheapo storage cubby on the closet floor. (Big ol’ spiders gravitate towards those piles of exposed clothing, so that wasn’t an ideal situation!)

So now, we’ll keep bringing those pieces from Mrs. COD’s old room as we visit. They all match, and they belonged to my grandma, who took meticulous care of her things. Eventually, I’d love to paint and refinish the entire set, but for now, we’re happy to have saved at least a few hundred dollars by not buying new! My clothes are much happier, too. 

Car. The new vehicle was a good deal (under $7K) for us, and our previous van had been pretty close to its last legs. We’re enjoying a little bit nicer drive and the mileage is comparable to what we got in the van. We also traded in the old vehicle and used a recent gift to help cover the difference, so we still have no car payment! Getting rid of monthly payments for stuff such as vehicles and student loans has been HUGE in changing our financial trajectory. There is no way I would be able to take a three-year sabbatical from teaching to raise the kids if we were still tied to so many monthly payment obligations. 

Halloween fun for the munchkins! I will put this in the win column. I bought new costumes from Wal-Mart because I am NOT crafty. Not one bit. I know there are plenty of DIY Halloween costume ideas on Pinterest, but I just decided to know and accept myself and not even bother. 

Each costume was $15 and the boys wore them almost non-stop for the week prior to Halloween. (They are still sporting them at this very moment, in fact.) Masks were included along with the suits. I doubt I could have made costumes for less than $30 anyway, and thrift stores are so hit-or-miss, I doubted I’d find anything the boys would like in the right sizes. Going store-bought saved me a ton of headaches and lost sleep! Hats off to my friends who make their kids’ costumes year after year (looking at you, April with the Trolls outfits), but that’s just not me! Sometimes DIY isn’t worth the hassle! 

Superheroes!

*Bonus: now that we live rurally, we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters ringing our doorbell. That means no need to buy bags of candy to pass out! I figured that comes close to balancing out the cost of costumes!

How about you all? What are some of your frugal wins this past month? 


Buying a Car On Credit

By on October 19, 2017

Here, of course, is a big ol’ no-no in smart spending: buying a car on credit. Using a credit card to pay for a vehicle: travesty! Well, the CODs did just that last weekend, and lived to tell the tale. Here’s the lowdown on our car-buying shenanigans!

Bidding adieu to our minivan!

Our Old Minivan

Our minivan was with us for two years and two months. It was a purchase necessitated by the awkwardness of loading two children into teeny Pontiac Vibes. In the interest of saving our kids from impending concussions from smacking their heads into the door frames while attempting to maneuver them into carseats, we went bigger. 

I had seen the minivan ad on a friend’s Facebook page, $3500 for a ten-year-old Town and Country. That was a low enough price that we could pay in cash, no prob. It test drove great and we went for it, selling our older Vibe a few weeks later.

That van was a dream, honestly. Old and worn meant we didn’t stress over the constant damage from toddler snacks and packing it full for long road trips. Racks on top were perfect for kayaks. The DVD player inside worked (albeit without a remote) and saved us from many a tantrum en route to Grandma’s and Aunt Teresa’s houses. 

However, our lovely van was nearing a pivotal time in its life: needing more money to keep it running safely than we wanted to spend. New tires were in the plans this fall. One side mirror had been crudely taped on since a wayward kayak knocked it off over the summer. The rusted edges, which had been DIY’d by Mr. COD, were beginning to worsen and even crumble away. 

Plus, it had something weird going on where it stalled within a minute or two of every gas fill-up. You could avoid danger by turning the engine on and off briefly at the gas station, but of course, we didn’t always remember. A few weeks ago, I got a bit freaked by the stalling. Thankfully, we were only in a parking lot, not a busy road, but it scared me, providing another impetus to switch vehicles.

Therefore, the time was right to say goodbye to our van. To make the decision even easier, a family member had recently given us a monetary gift that would cover a big portion of a newer car cost. While we at first intended to save it towards a new roof this year, we chose an upgrade in car instead. 

Our New-to-us Car

Mr. COD did most of the research, browsing used vehicles online for a few weeks. We ranged between around $5-$10K in price, figuring we could pay that up front and it would still be a very reasonable purchase. We hemmed and hawed over how vital it was to have three rows of seating, or whether a minivan was best. Since two kids seems to be where we’re stopping, three rows isn’t a big priority. We really just needed a decent amount of space for everyone, and a crossover seemed a good choice.

Last Thursday, we took the boys along to test-drive a Saturn Vue. It was okay, but felt sort of cheaply made and felt a lot more cramped inside than we wanted to be. Plus, despite low mileage for its age, it had a ton of wear and tear and didn’t appear well cared-for. Its lack of roof racks and crossbars (for kayaks) sealed the deal that it was not for us. 

As we dropped the Vue back at the dealership, I noticed a Nissan Murano with $9K scrawled on the windshield. It was in the same price range and size we’d been searching for, so we took that one for a spin and it was great! The boys helped by testing the power windows and noticing the awesome sunroof (thanks, guys). Mr. COD looked up its ratings that night to be sure it was a safe option.

We didn’t need much time to think it over; by morning we were ready to go buy the new car. To sweeten the deal, Mr. COD found the Nissan listed online for $2K less than it had been at the dealer! I cleaned out the minivan and we met him at work to go to the dealership. 

Credit Card Purchase

Here’s where the credit card comes in. I know, we’d received money to put towards a vehicle, and we certainly could have gone right to the bank for the cash or a check. This is when we got impatient; we had two kids with us and just wanted to be done quickly with the transaction. I hadn’t known if one could even use credit cards to buy vehicles, but apparently, it’s possible. 

Paying by credit card entails an extra fee, and in our case, it was 3%. So for our $7K car, it cost us an extra $210 to put it on plastic. We reasoned that we’d get a third of it back in 1% card rewards, and again, we were impatient. We didn’t know how long it would take our bank to prepare a cashier’s check and dreaded the thought of driving back across town at midday. I know, I know, it’s dumb and I wish we’d just gone back to the bank. Oh well; we still got an upgraded car for a pretty good price!

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS DO THIS WITH CREDIT CARD TRANSACTIONS:

*Don’t worry, folks, we got into that card account immediately the next day and PAID the balance IN FULL! I almost forgot to mention this most important part of using the card; oops! We NEVER would have considered paying via credit card if we hadn’t been able to pay the balance right away. 

Had we realized that another customer had come in, like, two minutes before us and would spend hours haggling over financing, we’d have definitely not used the card. For some reason, the dealership only could handle one person paying at a time? Who knows. It was a bit ridiculous. We waited for two hours to get the paperwork done (even though we’d come in ready to buy instantly). Maybe that was our punishment for paying by credit card…

Driving lessons!

Jr COD on the road!

Silver lining to all the waiting: the dealership provided these fun toys that entertained the boys during our wait. They had a blast and even forgot about lunch, ha! The other customers waiting probably didn’t love the noise, though.

Keeping them away from this brand-new car was fun…

Well, we’re enjoying our new car so far! We know it’s not an unreasonable expense for us, especially considering the added money we’d have had to spend to keep the van going. It’s easy to see how people get pulled into higher car payments than planned, though. Fortunately, we weren’t swayed by Shiny Object Syndrome and ignored the brand-new sparkling vehicles. We’d hoped to stay under $10K and were even more thrilled to get one for under $7K. 

Our new wheels…quite a bit cuter than the old van, if you ask me:)

Perspective changes if you let it. Driving a pretty beat-up old van for a couple of years adjusted my level of vehicle comfort. I didn’t love the looks of my van, it wasn’t a color I’d have chosen, but it filled our needs for awhile. And in turn, our new car won’t be perfect, but it feels pretty dang luxurious to me! It is still really spacious, and a little more my style, but that’s a bonus. I wouldn’t advise the credit card payment option, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Let’s hope our Nissan lasts us a long time (and that we find a way to hook up media devices for the kiddos on long trips). 

Have you ever made a car purchase you regretted? Or helped someone avoid a colossal car mistake? 

The Most Fundamental Financial Habit: A Zero-Sum Budget

By on October 6, 2017

Hey, everyone! Today I’m excited to introduce you to fellow blogger Sandra Parsons. She’s talking about one of the financial basics that we here at Changing Our Default haven’t addressed yet: the zero-sum budget. And as a fun bonus, she hails from Canada, so I know you’ll enjoy those distinguished spellings. 🙂 Take it away, Sandra!

If you’ve visited my blog A Theory of Change, you know I’m all about finding ways to develop positive habits to make a better life. I believe that a big part of making a better life is getting in control of your finances.

I love the idea of making my money work for me. It’s not enough for me to know that I’m paying my bills on time and more or less living within my means. I want to know where every dollar is going, why it’s going there, and what it’s doing. I want to know that I’m maximizing the value of my money (’cause, you know, I work pretty hard to earn it).  (more…)


The Hazards of Autopay

By on October 1, 2017

Autopay. It saves so many headaches when it comes to taking care of bills you know you’ll need to pay anyway. But beware! Autopay also has a sneaky side! Today in the COD annals, learn from our mistakes. Let’s review what to do and what NOT to do to avoid the hazards of autopay. 

What TO do:

  • Set up automatic payments for things like regular bills–garbage pickup, electricity, credit cards (at least the minimums, if not the full balance). If this helps you avoid late fees and ensure that all bills are paid promptly, then go for it. 

What NOT to do:

  • Leave payment information saved in any electronic devices that children may be using!!!!
  • Save payment information in places where you are most likely to overspend or spend spontaneously on non-necessities (I’m looking at you, Amazon Prime!)

We learned this $27 lesson last week when Junior COD decided that Minecraft looked “so cool” and he “just clicked buy”. Conveniently, he neglected to mention this to me or ask me about it until after he had already gone through the buying process (which was just clicking “buy”). 

Junior COD on his first day of preschool

Junior was supposed to be playing (and learning, of course) on abcmouse.com the other day while Mini COD was napping and I read on the porch just one room away. However, after ten minutes or so, he ventured onto the porch with me and told me what he’d been up to. 

He plays abcmouse.com games on my laptop, which Mr. COD also had connected to his XBOX account as we sometimes watch movies through that. In the few weeks since signing up for abcmouse.com, he has always been perfectly well-behaved. I guess, like many other parents before us, we hadn’t thought to sternly outline the rules with him beforehand: 1. Abcmouse.com is the ONLY thing you are to do on this computer, nothing else. 2. Do not click on anything with a price or the word “buy”! 

I remember I used to worry one of the boys would pick up my Kindle and inadvertently purchase expensive books no one would ever read since I had it connected to “buy with 1-click”. That never happened, probably due to the fact that we never allowed them to watch shows or play games on my Kindle, so it was rather uninteresting to them. They’re also fairly good about our phones. Occasionally we’ll let them play the “okay Google” game with the phone. They love to look up photos and information about dinosaurs and other creatures using that feature, and have never accidentally wandered into the realm of purchasing via autopay. 

Mr. COD attempted to cancel the Minecraft transaction, but alas, it was too late. Junior COD is now prohibited from playing the game for at least one week as punishment for buying something without permission. We explained to him that $27 is not a trivial amount of money to us, especially for entertainment. Plus, we had never approved his playing of the game in the first place (he only knew of Minecraft from watching his older cousins). We also informed him that this purchase will be considered a part of his Christmas. 

Now, let’s be real here…Christmas is three months away, and in toddler-time, that might as well be an eternity. We’re not going to stand there on Christmas morning and tell him, “Sorry, kid, all you get is a pair of socks because of that time you bought Minecraft!” We’ll probably get him the same amount of presents we would have anyway. However, we won’t feel a bit guilty for selecting presents primarily from Ollie’s Discount Store or Bargain Hunt.

Fixin’ Things For The Future

So the night after the Minecraft autopay debacle, we went into our accounts that had automatic payments saved. It was really just Amazon and XBOX; thankfully, we don’t have a plethora of store credit cards or accounts. Now, we’ve made it more difficult to purchase because you must enter the password. It’s a pain, especially with the XBOX which has one of those ridiculous passwords that’s 47 characters long, which is why we had it saved in the first place. Certainly, this makes buying stuff more of a hassle overall (NOT a bad thing). Spending money should be a pain, much of the time. 

Building in a Waiting Period

We do enjoy our Amazon Prime membership, especially with two kids and a house out in the boonies. It cuts down on our driving time for errands and simplifies buying necessities, like parts to repair our 12-year-old van. Regardless, shouldn’t we always think a bit before we click “buy”? This builds in a little of that crucial wait time so many recommend for spending less. (See Mrs. Picky Pincher’s account of beating her Amazon obsession for more on this!) I know I’m a tad less likely to buy something spur-of-the-moment if I have to go through that extra step of entering my account information and password. I go through the added “pain” of searching for my credit card and typing in the information, which makes me pause. More often than not, I’ll decide not to buy that nifty gadget after all. 

I’m just thankful this was only a $27 mistake! Kinda forgot about those autopay hazards. We meant to lock up those accounts a long time ago, so we’re lucky Junior COD stopped at one game and didn’t buy, like, a plasma-screen TV or something. Now we’ll return to buying the old-fashioned way…ya know, by manually entering our payment info when we actually need to buy something! 

What kind of faux pas have you made with kids and money? 


How Not Working Impacts Your Views on Money

By on August 30, 2017

It’s been a year of not working for me. About one year ago, I received my final paycheck from my school district! A year of not setting an alarm. A year of not following a set schedule. A year of freedom to travel during the week with the kids. I find it fascinating how this has changed my views on money; perhaps I never realized how important work is to a person’s identity. While my perspectives on work and money are likely vastly different from those of someone who is not unemployed by choice, I want to explore this topic a bit today. 

Whether contemplating stay-at-home parenthood for a period of time or retiring permanently from a paying career, it’s important to keep in mind some factors. Obviously, we’re all built differently, but if you leave your work, these are a few changes you might encounter:

MINDSET CHANGES

  1. You find yourself pinching your pennies more than before. Every expense must be more carefully planned for and monitored. Non-essentials may not fit into the budget. Although I was fairly frugal before quitting my job, being out of the workforce has made me think much more before spending any money. Most of my discretionary purchases that were just for me? They’re out of the picture.  
  2. You actually crave the routine and structure of a work schedule. Even though I’m used to having long stretches of time off (yay for one of the only perks left to public school teachers!), being absent from work beyond that typical 10-week summer feels weird. Not following any required routine is always a highlight of vacation time, but I’ve found that it’s lost some of its appeal. Now that a non-routine is actually routine, any kind of motivation can be hard to muster. On some lazier days it feels a lot like being sick (staying in pajamas all day, barely leaving the house, watching the same shows again and again). 
  3. Your definition of a small or large amount of income adjusts. For me, not working a full-time, steady job with a steady paycheck makes me really savor and appreciate the occasional income I make. (Of course, Mr. COD is still working, but I’m referring to my own freelance endeavors.) Side hustles aren’t earning me enough to make a dent in our retirement savings, but they are sufficient to finance the occasional Raising Cane’s dinner out for the fam! While I (obviously) hope to eventually earn more than $20 or $25 for writing gigs, as long as it’s a reasonable trade of my time/effort for the money, I won’t sniff at that pay level. (Sometimes my devotionals only take 15-30 minutes to write, earning me $25. Not a bad rate!)
  4. Occasionally, you might feel guilty if your partner is still working to support the family. Fully retired folks are not in the same boat, but I absolutely encounter moments of guilt as I think “oh, we could save so much money if I were still working”. While that’s true, I am confident in the choice we made for me to stay home with Junior and Mini COD. 

It’s certainly a different lifestyle, not getting up and heading to a job every day. I miss the paychecks and the sense of security they gave, but I can keep in mind that this is only a short period of time. My kids will only be little once, and I want to enjoy this brief sliver of life with them as much as possible. It’ll feel like a blink of an eye, and suddenly my kids will be grown and on their own. As long as Mr. COD is still on board, I can deal with these adjustments to our financial situation. As with most things in life, they are temporary. 

Have you ever been out of work for an extended period of time? How did that affect your views on money? 


    The Death of Shopping

    By on April 7, 2017

    Shopping used to be entertaining. A relaxing activity. A harmless pastime. 

    Except…Um…It was never harmless. 

    Shopping used to numb my wounds. It made me feel like a grown-up (ironically, since I would spend money I didn’t really have, being in debt as I was). Meandering store aisles offered a cure for boredom. Shopping was a way to make myself feel better, whatever was going on. 

    Students sassing back in class? A new outfit will cheer me up and help me look forward to tomorrow despite the hoodlums. 

    Envious of friends getting married and having babies while I’m still single? Go buy some Twizzlers and jellybeans to scarf down in front of the TV. 

    Nothing to do on Saturday afternoon? Wander the aisles of Target. You don’t need to need anything, you’ll find 817 things you didn’t even know you wanted!

    A NEW MINDSET

    My recent Kohl’s visit opened my eyes to how my shopping mindset has changed. 

    Where I used to cross that threshold and be instantly transported into a veritable Promised Land, I now walked in purposefully. Only to spend the $20 Kohl’s cash we had earned when Mr. COD unexpectedly needed to buy a new suit for interviews. I intended to spend as little as possible, targeting that $20 mark. 

    Where I used to go to Kohl’s to fill up empty time, I yearned to use up the accumulated rewards cash as quickly as possible and get out. Part of that change is due to small kids in my house; I always feel hurried to get back home on the rare occasions I get out. A smidgen of mom guilt I need to release somehow.

    Where I used to be thrilled each time I received a new coupon to use at my fave store (those 30% off ones were pretty sweet), I now receive multiple offers via email daily and use them rarely, if at all. I think I purchase from Kohl’s maybe two or three times a year now, always when I need my running shoes replaced. I get the same brand and style every time and avoid the stress of trying on and debating what to choose. This is especially helpful as I need custom orthotics, which I know will fit my good ol’ standby sneaks. 

    Where I once would spend 100 bucks or more, so pumped to walk out with a huge bag o’goodies, I now am a more thoughtful consumer. Even if all seven of the new shirts I bought were $7 or less due to discounts, did I actually need those new shirts? Or would I now have too many choices of what to wear, making it tougher to decide? Would I end up tossing them out a few months later due to poor quality or my capricious style whims? 

    Walking around Kohl’s that day felt so foreign to me. I would have just ordered something online, but was loath to pay extra for shipping, thus, to the actual store I went. I knew I wanted a digital food thermometer because Junior COD had recently broken ours, so I made a beeline for that section. 

    I found the one I wanted and grabbed some socks to use up the rest of our Kohl’s cash (it went a little bit over, but socks are always disappearing). Yeah, I know stores only offer those promos to get us back in to buy more, but at least I ended up with a necessity! Not a super exciting shopping trip, but it was just what we needed.

    REASONS FOR THE CHANGED ATTITUDE (WHY HAS SHOPPING LOST ITS MAGIC?)

    1. I no longer have a job, so our household income is (duh) a lot less now. 
    2. I think of stuff my kids need more than the stuff I want. (Not always, but I’m getting there.)
    3. If we move in a few months or a year, I want to pack up as little as possible to take with us. Less shopping=less to pack and organize! 
    4. I am trying to adopt more of a “use what I have” mentality versus a “buy more” mentality.
    5. I continue to learn and relearn that just because an item is supposedly a “deal” doesn’t make it a good deal for me. 
    6. With two kids, chances to shop alone are rare, and shopping with them in tow is a chore, not fun.
    7. So many are suffering or needy in this world, and I’d rather be more able to give generously than spoil myself. 

        What’s your relationship with shopping? Have you always loved or hated it, or has your perspective changed  over time?


        Frugality Report: March

        By on March 31, 2017

        I’m not big on sharing full budget reports or anything like that here, but I do like to sum up some ways we’ve been frugal or failed in frugality each month. Perhaps our successes will spark an idea for you or our frugality foibles will encourage you. Hence, I bring you the March Frugality Report!

        Less-frugal stuff in March:

        A trip to a kids’ museum near Mrs. COD’s hometown wasn’t free. Only five buckaroos a person, though, so we were happy to pay. It brightened up one of two dreary, cold days of spring break!

        A fair amount of eating out. Nothing super expensive, but we did spend a bit there. At least we got free babysitting from the grandparents again! 
        Frugal Wins this month:

        $5 hiking boots for me courtesy of VarageSale! I love them already, and they were barely worn when I got them. 

        I ended up not running a race in my hometown that I’d been planning on. My knees were acting up, so I decided to forego the run. A bummer, since a bunch of old friends were running, but since I hadn’t yet signed up, no money was lost! 

        Free vanilla soft-serve cones at Dairy Queen! March 20th, I happened to come across an ad for their free ice cream day, so after some park time with the boys, we walked over to DQ. 

        I exercised restraint in book-purchasing this month. I’ve managed to hold back on buying a certain book I’ve been itching to get my hands on since before it was released. I was tempted again, but frugality prevailed! Maybe I’ll get lucky if I ask around among friends if I can borrow a copy. Also, I checked out Liturgy of the Ordinary from our local library. Written by Tish Harrison Warren, it’s all about the everyday occurrences that present opportunities for knowing God. Things like losing your keys, sitting in traffic, and making your bed can become spiritual experiences. I love, love, love this book, so much I nearly bought it for myself. It sometimes is a joy to mark up a real book with footnotes and underlining, and I kind of longed for that again.  However, it’s perfectly adequate to check it out again from the good ol’ library! 

        No wild St. Patty’s Day frivolity here. I made green cupcakes with the boys that day (although Junior COD tried to talk me into buying some at the store the day before). We waited until two days later to purchase some corned beef at a significant discount. 

        Our second job-interview trip included a stop at Mrs. COD’s parents’ house, which meant free lodging and a chance to visit with them. Plus, the college footed the bill for fuel expenses and one night near campus! Junior COD was so anxious to see Grandma again on the return trip that he convinced us to drive back right after the interview. So he saved us another night in a hotel–yay! 

        We’d love to hear about your own quest for frugality this month! How have you been saving money (or splurging)?


        Frugality Report: February

        By on February 28, 2017

        Awesome frugality or not, February has been a good time for us. I’m doing more freelance writing, Mr. COD is busy interviewing, we enjoyed a frugal birthday for our two-year-old, and our weather here in IL has been freaking INCREDIBLE. 

        Here are some of our frugal highlights for this month!

        • No Valentine’s Day gifts or dinner out. In typical COD fashion, we kept it low-key. I baked my heart cookies the weekend beforehand, which we enjoyed for several days (and had plenty extra to take to church). I did get a kick out of seeing the multitude of guys purchasing flowers, balloons, and candy the night before!
        • I finally went to a children’s resale shop that is literally two blocks from our house. I happened to end up there on a sale day when all clothing was $1! Wahoo! That sale scored us a bunch of stuff for Junior COD, which was great since we’re starting to run out of hand-me-downs as he grows bigger. I found two sets of swim trunks and rash guards, several shirts, a pair of pants, and some really nice sneakers for him, all for $13.50. Only the shoes were “full” price, which was $4. Much better than $15-20 or more, which is not uncommon for kids’ shoes. 
        • I refreshed my pasta-making skills a couple of times, and my technique is improving!
        •     
        • Last week I also took on (for the first time) Mrs. Picky Pincher’s homemade tortilla recipe, which was a big win! It’s a super-duper easy recipe to follow. If you want to check out her new e-book, that’s where I found this recipe (plus a ton more recipes and a detailed four-week meal plan): 
        • Slash Your Grocery Bills In 28 Days: Eat like royalty on a shoestring budget

          Tasty tortillas!

        • Mini COD’s birthday festivities were fun, but also mellow, as we’d hoped! On the actual birthday, we grilled out for lunch on our deck (never thought we’d do that for a February birthday in the Midwest). I made his cake from a boxed mix because I had one in the pantry and just wasn’t in the mood to make it from scratch. His PJ Masks figures became the cake toppers instead of getting wrapped up, and they’re perfect little toys for him. We didn’t have a party, just the four of us at home, a few presents, and cake, and it was just right. Since we’re both homebodies and slightly lazy when it comes to celebrating, and he’s too little to care, it was perfect for us! 

          that’s about as fancy as my decorating gets!

        • A trip to the children’s museum was a big hit one Saturday. It does have an admission fee, but since we squeaked in there before Mini’s second birthday, he got in for free! Woohoo!
        • The nicest weekend weather led us to Madison and the Henry Vilas Zoo, which is totally free! We met Mr. COD’s sister and her family for the day and the boys were ecstatic to hang with their cousins and aunt and uncle. It was so gorgeous out that we ate a lovely picnic by the lake as well. Super frugal fun!  

          not sure what exhibit this was…

        • Our Madison picnic view…an icy lake on a 65° day!


          the view of the zoo from the adjacent park

         

        Frugality Fails:

        • Groceries got waaaay out of hand this month, which is a bummer after we kicked some grocery budget butt during Uber Frugal January. We got lazy and got back into old habits like going to the market four days in a row. That’s what happens when we don’t plan meals and shopping! Over $500 in the shortest month of the year = dang it!
        • Along the same lines, we ate out quite a bit. Honestly, though, we’re not sorry. We found an awesome new sitter the boys love, and dating your spouse is important! Once those kiddos are grown up, it’ll be just Mr. COD and me again, so we gotta stay connected. 
        • Too many gifts for Mini COD! We gave him two resale shop board games, which were cheap, but he’s still not ready to play them. He liked the other toys we ended up buying, but a week later, they’re already largely forgotten. Plus (and this is the worst part), Junior COD was definitely watching, so he’s been sharing his birthday wish list for the past week. Whoops. We may have set too high a precedent for him that will make it harder to stay frugal and limited when he turns 4. Plus, that’s not for another three months…sigh…

        How about you guys? Any big frugal wins or flops this month? Hey, at least if we failed, it can’t be as big a gaffe as that one on Oscar night…


        Fresh Pasta: The Ultimate Frugal Luxury

        By on February 17, 2017

        FRESH PASTA!

        If you have never undertaken the task of making your own fresh pasta, you are missing out on some seriously delicious stuff! It’s incredible how much better the taste and texture of homemade pasta is from the boxed stuff. Now, I’ll admit I don’t take the time to do it very often, but when I do, it’s soooo worth it. I feel like I get a little taste of Italy right in the comfort of my home. (A trip to Bella Italia is on our someday list, but not for quite a few years!) (more…)


        Free Board Games

        By on February 10, 2017

        On Christmas, we discovered that Junior COD is now into board games, so more game time is on the docket. Anything that provides a respite from dinosaur toys and television is a parenting win in my book! So this past week, I pulled my Crafty Self out of storage and cobbled together my version of this game he’d played with family over the holidays. Hence, I bring you our Frugal Friday activity of the week: homemade board games!

          (more…)