Monthly Budget Roundup- September

It’s the beginning of a new month, so time to go through the budget I posted at the beginning of the month and see how I did.  For this post, you’ll get to see the amount I budgeted in black and the final amount I spent in red or green (depending on whether it’s over or under budget).

Yucky yucky debt

  • Planned: $1215 plus at least $2800 at the end of the month
  • Spent: $1215 plus $3500 at the end of the month
  • Total: $4715 ($715 over our $4000 target- YAY!)


  • Rent: $1300                                      $1300
  • Utilities: $280                                  $271
  • Phone: $51                                       $42
  • Groceries: $500                               $493
  • Gas: $200                                          $149
  • Daycare: $1245                               $1241
  • B. Cash: $500                                   $532

Other Items

  • Netflix: $11                                     $11
  • Restaurants: $100                         $96
  • Pet care: $20                                  $42
  • Clothing: $150                               $81
  • Sports & Entertainment: $100   $93
  • Miscellaneous: $200                    $193
  • Hair Care/Cosmetics: $100         $59
  • Her money: $100                         $72
  • Doctor: $50                                    $0
  • Maid: $200                                    $198
  • Lawn Service: $75                       $74
  • Thank you gift: $75                     $50
  • Soccer: $90                                   $90

Look at that, guys! After a rash of bad budget months, I think I might actually be under our planned spending for September!! This month has been great- I only ended up over on two categories.  The first is vet- the dog did need a prescription refill, but said prescription refill was more expensive because his dose needed adjusting.

Second is B., who had a few unexpected expenses this month (like a new laptop keyboard) that upped his spending.  I won’t give him too much grief though- he regularly stays within the $500 we budget. 🙂

And, as predicted, now that I remembered to budget money toward medical expenses, none occurred.  F. was sick, but Tricare pays for everything 100% while B. is deployed so we didn’t end up incurring any expenses.

Here’s hoping October continues the trend of good spending!

Final Spending Tally (excluding debt) 

  • Planned: $5157
  • Actual: $5087
  • Percent of total income: 50%

(For those of you following along with the math, that means that we put roughly 47% of our income toward student loans this month. UGH but yay?)

Tune in tomorrow for October’s budget.  How did your month go?


Freezer Challenge Update

Alright, time for a weekly check-in on this freezer challenge.  Infamous oil-soaked fish aside (still so gross), this week was pretty good, both for using stuff up AND freezer challenge.  Up first: freezer challenge.

Things I used up out of my freezer

  1. Country-style pork ribs

I’m super pumped that I used these up.  I had no idea what I was going to do with them.  I ended up making slow cooker carnitas (using this recipe) and mixing the following together for a very delicious burrito bowl:

  • 1/3 cup rice
  • 1/3 cup pork
  • 1/4 cup black beans
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole (to your taste- I firmly believe that there is no such thing as too much guacamole)

I’ve been eating burrito bowls for lunch all week and they are still completely delicious. Plus, the pork was great cooked this way. And I used up something that I was not excited about eating.

2. Chili

I had one lone container of chili hanging out in my freezer, which I heated up tonight for F. and I along with a homemade quesadilla that we split.  Easy and delicious.

3. Fish

So there is less fish in my freezer, although it definitely wasn’t a win, since I ended up throwing it instead of eating it.

4. Ice Cream

MMMMM….ice cream. This wasn’t part of the freezer challenge, but I did use some of it up.

Other Frugal Food Wins

I used up a whole butternut squash– I like the idea of squash more than the execution in almost every situation.  But I was the lucky recipient of a large butternut squash (thank you Dad!) and needed to find a recipe for it.  I ended up making a butternut squash, bacon and pasta casserole and guys….IT WAS DELICIOUS.

I am not a food photographer. Clearly. But how good does this look? 

I’m serious, this pasta was easy and amazing.  It was salty and sweet and tasted like a big old bite of fall.  This is a Cooking Light recipe, but I modified it slightly.


  • Salt, rosemary, pepper
  • 3 cups peeled, cut butternut squash
  • 6 slices raw bacon (or more- since you can’t really have too much bacon)
  • 8 oz. uncooked mini penne
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 2 cups milk (don’t use skim- you need something with some fat in it)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Mix squash with salt, pepper and rosemary. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray and arrange squash on cookie sheet.  Heat oven to 425 F and roast for 45-50 minutes. Once the squash is done…
  2. Cut bacon into pieces and cook over medium heat. Once bacon is mostly cooked, drain fat (if you want)  and add squash to the pan. Saute for one minute.  Remove from heat.
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  4. Combine flour and 1/2 tsp salt in a deep pan (dutch oven or something similar). Slowly add milk and whisk to combine.  Heat to boiling- boil one minute, whisking fairly continuously. Add cheese, stir until melted, then remove from heat. Stir in pasta. Once combined, stir in bacon and squash.  Serve warm.

Seriously, you have to try this recipe. I was so hesitant about it and IT WAS PHENOMENAL. At least, I thought so.  F. wasn’t so certain- she picked out all the bacon and deigned to eat a few noodles.

Anyway, all in all, not a bad week.  One big miss, but two things used up out of the freezer and one butternut squash used up.  I’ll take it! How’re you all doing?


Money Monday: Saving for a Rainy Day

Note: This was supposed to be yesterday’s post (which, dear readers, I’m sure you will note, is also not Monday. What can I say? Life is beautiful, yet exhausting, so sometimes I’m just not up for blogging!)

As I write this blog post, it is currently pouring down buckets of rain.  The forecast for tomorrow is cold and rainy too, so this week’s Money Monday post seems appropriate.

One of the most important ways to win with money is to be prepared to weather a financail storm. A 2012 study by FINRA foudn that 40% of Americans couldn’t come up with $2000 in an emergency and 60% don’t have three months of basic expenses saved up.

This is one area where B. and I have significantly deviated from the Dave Ramsey plan.  In order, his steps involve saving $1000,  paying off debt and saving up 3-6 months of expenses.

I don’t know about you all, but $1000 in savings when you’re looking at a minimum of a five years paying off debt just doesn’t really feel that secure.  In the last two years, I can think of at least three major, surprise expenses that required more than $1000. Plus, five years is a really long time. There are a lot of things that could happen during that time- one of us could lose a job, we could have a major health event, or some other life event could happen.  I’m just not comfortable living for five years with no savings to fall back in, just in case.

Anyway, we’re doing this out of order, because we saved up about four months of expenses before we started paying down debt and I haven’t regretted it for a minute.  Still not convinced? Here are three good reasons why you really need to have three to six months of expenses in savings.

  1. Life happens all the time– Cars break down, kids need surgery, dogs eat something stupid and rack up huge vet bills, and things in the house break (like the time our trees decided that growing through the drain line was a GREAT IDEA!) Three to six months of expenses in savings will more than cover almost any major life event.
  2. Job security is not a real thing– Given that neither B. or I are tenured professors or union workers, we don’t have a whole lot of job security.  Sure, we do our jobs well, but it’s impossible to predict whether our positions will still make sense three or four years down the road.  Layoffs happen and it’s irresponsible to our family to not plan for that eventuality.
  3. Major health events are no joke–  I work in health insurance, so maybe I’m paranoid, but I’ve seen firsthand just how much a major medical event can cost. Medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the country.  Most out-of-pocket maximums are set around $7000 a year- that’s a lot of money before insurance kicks in.  Having expenses in savings helps to absorb both the costs associated with a major health event as well as the opportunity costs associated with missing work.

So there you have it.  Three reasons why you need three to six months of expenses in savings.  It wasn’t easy for us to get there- we were often saving only $50-$100 a month, but we’ve been building for a long time and our savings are finally in a good place. Start small and you might be surprised how easy it is to find more money to save.

The usual caveat: none of this applies if you are struggling to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, health insurance and utilities. A lot of what I write about assumes an income sufficient to meet basic needs, but I fully recognize that there is a significant part of the population that doesn’t fit that criteria. I still think that Dave Ramsey can be helpful in this situation, but the application is quite different. 

Some days are better than others- food edition!

So tonight’s post was supposed to be something completely different, but in the spirit of full transparency, I’m going to share my evening with all of you instead.

I was so excited about dinner tonight- I had found a recipe for homemade fish sticks, which F. would love and would use up some of the god-awful old fish in my freezer. Win-win.  I was already composing the blog post on using up fish in my head.


I asked our housekeeper to clean the stove yesterday when she was here (I know, first world problems, but bear with me). She (apparently?) pulled off all the knobs to clean under them and then put them back on upside down.

These burners are all off.  But they look on.  I’m lucky I didn’t burn down the house…

Which, of course, I failed to notice until I was cooking dinner.  So my oil got hot (after sitting forever, because, oh wait, it was on LOW, not HIGH) and then I tried to turn it down but actually turned it off.  After I put the fish in. After which the fish soaked up all the oil in the pan. SO GROSS.

Enter the back-up meal. Scrambled eggs, banana and tomato slices.  You may remember that scrambled eggs was one of my easiest last minute meals. So that’s what we had tonight, because at 5:30 my toddler was sitting at the table screaming for food and I had absolutely nothing ready to go.

So…my freezer clean-out is not off to an auspicious start.  Hopefully the rest of the week goes better!

One Month Freezer Challenge

I was digging through my freezer, looking for steak the other day, and I realized that both of my freezers (upstairs and deep freeze) are very full of food. VERY full of food.  So, I’m going to challenge myself to use up all of the food in my freezer in the next month and not buy anything new for the freezer except chicken. Buying in bulk and freezing is only a cost-saving measure if the food actually gets eaten and I know that I am not the best at using up food in my freezer.

So much food. 

I’m giving myself a month because it’s just F. and I eating right now, so it takes us awhile to get through food! Also, about 1/2 of what I have for meat in the deep freeze is pork and I just don’t like pork enough to eat it for every meal (or honestly, almost any meal. Note to self: stop buying pork).

Each week I’m going to post what I used up from my freezer, as a way to keep myself accountable. Anyone want to join me??

Here are some things that are currently in my freezer:

  • Pork chops
  • Boneless country pork ribs (I HATE ribs. Why did I buy these? What do I do with them??)
  • More pork chops
  • A box of ice cream bars (not part of the freezer challenge. Darn)
  • Popsicles (also not part of the freezer challenge)
  • 1/2 bag of chicken nuggets and tater tots (these should be easy to use up)
  • Some random frozen vegetables (mostly peas and corn, I think- neither of which I like. Maybe some soup…)
  • A bag of shrimp
  • A bag of frozen tilapia
  • Chili
  • Ground beef
  • BBQ pork and chicken (blech. I hate these. This was leftover from a baby shower I hosted. Maybe F. will like them and I can just feed them to her).
  • Ravioli (not part of the freezer challenge- one of my last minute meal items!)
  • Bagels
  • Hamburger buns (bet these will pair well with the bbq meat)
  • Bananas (I am not worried about using these up. Banana bread for the win!)

Some other things, I’m sure. I’m a little afraid to figure out what all is hiding in my freezer(s). I think a few things are probably beyond usable (like a casserole I froze over a year ago- no chance in hell we’re going to eat that), but hopefully I can do a good clean out of the freezer.  Maybe I’ll even  get lucky and meat will be on sale about the time I run out of food! Anyway, feel free to join me! Hopefully a month from now, I’ll be able to post a picture of a much cleaner freezer.

Five Frugal Things

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Picture Source: Pizza Hut

I haven’t done one of these in awhile! This post encompasses five (and sometimes more) frugal things I’ve been up to lately.

  1. I took F. to the mall to play – Sunday morning dawned cold and wet from a night of thunderstorms, so our usual outdoor activities were out. Instead, we hit up the play place at a very nice mall near us.  It’s basically like an indoor playground.  Are they disgusting germ factories? Absolutely.  But my kid also regularly tries to eat dirt, so I’m not going to stress about it too much. Best of all, it’s FREE.
  2. I batched errands over the weekend and hit up the store closest to the mall for a few things I *ahem* forgot to get the first time we went to the store.
  3. I planned meals for the week and didn’t buy anything at the grocery store that wasn’t on my list.
  4. I returned some clothing that didn’t fit right to ThredUp- You only have about 10 days to return something to ThredUp and I always makes sure to meet that deadline, because money spent on clothing I won’t wear is wasted money.
  5. I cooked meals at home, I drank only water and coffee, nearly everything we did this weekend was free, I took my lunch every day to work and I didn’t order wings even though I really really really wanted to (Pizza Hut wings are delicious. Yes, my palette is basic. But really, seriously, they’re delicious. The pizza is eh, but the wings…I’m not helping myself out here).

What frugal things have you been up to?

Four things that are making me happy

It has been a bear of a week at work so I think it’s more than time for a four things that are making me happy post.  I know it sounds totally self-helpish but making these lists really does make me feel a bit better. It can be really easy to wallow in the bad and stressful and it helps me calm down to remember all the things that are still going well.

  1. I got some new to me clothes for fall from ThredUp.  I will shortly be doing an entire post devote to ThredUp, but suffice it to say, you can get great, used clothes at a fraction of the price of retail.  Fall is my favorite season and a couple new sweaters makes it really feel like fall!
  2. I caught a potentially big issue at work before it actually became an issue.  True, it’s been a stressful week dealing with fixing it, but I’m super glad I caught it before it actually became an issue.
  3. F. is slowly but surely adjusting to both her big girl bed and a new daycare room.  Through a series of unfortunate forgetting on my part, I transitioned F. to her long-awaited big girl bed the day before she started in a new room at daycare and my change-averse child has had a tough time with all the transition.  This week, she’s been going to sleep without problems and not crying at drop-off, so I’m going to consider that a win.
  4. img_2017_09_14_20_10_27
    My happy little F., painting a pumpkin.

    It’s supposed to be sunny and pleasant out all weekend, so I think F. and I will definitely take advantage of the weather and get in some quality outside time before the colder weather sets in.

What’s making you happy this week?