Thursday, November 28, 2013

Month 13: Debt Repayment Update

Feels nice to make it past the 1 year mark. This month we're down $587 which leaves:


A lot of awesome things happened finance-wise for us this month. 

I got another contract extension for work until my due date which takes off a huge burden - especially over the holidays. 

We finished paying off one of our loans entirely (woohoo!).

DH has been working a bit of overtime which is always nice.

We paid for almost 2/3rds of our Disney Trip!

We put a serious dent in our Christmas shopping. 

After posting our updated monthly budget, Martina asked about our $400 allocation for groceries so I decided to make an honest effort to track my grocery expenditures more closely over the past month. I will have a post on that later this coming week! 

Ideally I'd love to be sitting below $50K by January 1st to start the year off in the 40K's but I have my doubts that we'll be able to knock off nearly $1000 in December of all months with our vacation, Christmas, and some unpaid time off for DH over the holidays and a few days this week (he is going in for surgery again tomorrow). Maybe a Christmas miracle? 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Update on my not so little ones

I haven't written an update on these guys in forever:

At 5 1/2 years, B...

- Is very social
- Is starting to show a real interest in learning things like letters, words, and the time.
- Is extremely caring and compassionate - he is a great big brother.
- Is very sensitive to being told no. Needs explanations.
- Enjoys having stories read to him (not so much trying to read them on his own)
- Likes colouring, painting, and gluing. His artistic abilities have grown dramatically.
- Is fascinated with Christmas
- Is too good at climbing trees.
- Still doesn't enjoy playing independently often or for long periods of time
- Is an early riser

At 2 1/2 years, N...

- Is determined as ever. Knows exactly what he wants.
- Is inquisitive - asks questions constantly
- Exercises his independence regularly (refusing help to get dressed, refusing to wear a diaper, climbing out of his crib, refusing to nap, using a chair or stool to climb up to the counter and fridge to help himself to food).
- Can ride his older brother's 2 wheeled scooter like a pro
- Doesn't test the boundaries as much as his older brother does/did
- Loves to look at pictures and tell you things about them
- Loves our Yorkie "Jake"
- Is still the pickiest of eaters and almost nightly declares "izz yucky" at the dinner table when presented with his food
- Likes cuddles
- Likes his sleep

Though they argue daily over toys and stuff lately - mostly N wanting whatever B has, they're still the best of friends. They hug and tell the other they love them often. They say sorry on their own most of the time when someone gets upset or hurt. In the mornings whoever wakes up first just has to wake the other up.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November Goals

Here is how I did on my October Goals:

+ Organize and do a deep clean of the house. I did a fairly good job on this one - I dusted; B cleaned the baseboards for me (and thought it was fun!); organized B's bedroom; and sorted through the boys clothes, purged some, and consolidated them into rubbermaid containers we already had with the size marked on them. This also makes me thankful we're having another boy. Everything has been sorted and I can now make a list of the very few things I'll need for baby #3 this Spring.

+ Sort and organize the boys' baby books and photos. I did not get to this at all but I did decide that I want to order photo books online since nearly all of our photos are on the computer. I'll start with B ages 0-3 and make it a goal to order one of these books each year. Next year will be N 0-3, and the following year will be B 3-6 years. 

+ Finalize Christmas vacation plansOur Disney portion of the trip is paid off (resort and park fees). This is about 2/3 of the cost of the trip. Just need to save now for the travel, food and spending costs. I have most of our details sorted out. 

+ Get more sleep, exercise, and eat well. This month I did remarkably better on my fruit/veg and calcium intake. I also made an effort to walk more to do errands on my lunch hour. I purposely park in the parking lot farther away from my work and always take the stairs up the 3 floors rather than the elevator. I could do better on the sleep front but have been experiencing some pregnancy insomnia. 

My goals for November are:

+ Move N into his big boy room (currently our office) by the end of the month and find somewhere for our office to go. This room has some temperature issues since it is over the garage so we'll have to get that sorted out too. 

+ Finish most of my Christmas shopping and get the boys Santa photos done. Currently I'm about 25% done. 

+ Continue with organizing, cleaning, and purging at home. This should be an easy goal to accomplish since I'm tackling our office which is the most neglected as far as clutter goes. 

+ Continue to firm up our Disney travel plans! We'll need to book our reservations soon for dinners and character breakfasts. DH will also need to get a passport. Apparently the boys only need their birth certificates to cross the border by car. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Budget: My Cleaning Pals

Meet my cleaning products. I buy all the No Name products from No Frills and all of the other products from the Real Canadian Superstore (Loblaws).

Laundry Detergent - We use Nature Clean HE 3x concentrated unscented laundry detergent. It is supposed to be good for 86 loads but I tend to buy one every 6-7 weeks or so and I don't think I do more than 10 loads of laundry/week. I also add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil ($5 and has lasted me 2 years) to the detergent when I wash our bedding as eucalyptus is a dust mite deterrent and it makes for a nice smell when we get in bed.  It is more expensive than the other mainstream and generic brands but we don't mind forking over a little extra since we have extremely sensitive skin. We don't use fabric softener and we've never noticed our clothes/linens as being scratchy or not soft.

Nature Clean Oxygen Bleach (not pictured) - I think this is somewhere around $8/bottle but I can't remember since I've had the same bottle for about 2 years. I use this to run through our front loader washing machine periodically on the clean cycle. I've also used it to give the kitchen counters a thorough clean.

Floor Cleaner - We use the unscented PC Green All Purpose Cleaner (somewhere around $3/bottle). Does a decent job on the floors.

Clorox Green Works All Purpose Cleaner - I use this spray for surfaces like the kitchen counter etc. (somewhere around $3 per bottle). It has a slight scent to it which is nice.

Baking Soda - I use baking soda (less than $1/box) for anything that requires a more abrasive cleaner like the stove, tub, and sinks. The key to this is adding it to the dry surface and then only adding a little bit of water so it turns into a paste. It will sometimes leave a bit of a residue if you don't thoroughly rinse it so I follow up with the PC Green All Purpose Cleaner.

Glass Cleaner - mix of vinegar and water in an old Nature Clean glass cleaner spray bottle.. again the cost is cents and it works just as well as Windex in my opinion.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner - Yep.. the harsh stuff ($3). I don't mess around with toilets. I found mould and other icky bacteria growth on my toilet brushes to be a lot when I used the green toilet cleaner. Anyone have a solution for this? Do other people clean their toilet brushes periodically? Maybe I'm just out of the loop.

Paper Towel (not pictured) - I use on average a half a roll of No Name paper towel. A 2 pack is only $.77 which I've found is cheaper than buying the larger pack for some reason. This is used  for kitchen (mostly wiping out my cast iron frying pan or soaking up excess bacon grease) and cleaning (glass and mirrors - and then use the same paper towel after for the toilet because I don't want that on my cloth).

No Name Quick Tie Regular Garbage Bags - These are cheap at around $5/box and meet my durability expectations. Some cheaper bags can fall apart or rip easily. No fancy tie up or handles. We don't mind roughing it when it comes to garbage bags.

As for other supplies, I use a Vileda broom and a Vileda Mop 3-in-1 sponge end. I replace this end when it starts to look yucky about every 3 months. I use a cloth (old towel cut up) for all of my surface, sink, tub cleaning and then throw it in the laundry with DH's work clothes. We have a HEPA Kenmore Vacuum - I change the bag every 4ish months when my light comes on to tell me it is full. Though we have to pay for the bags and they aren't the most environmentally friendly, I find having a bag really helps with allergies since I don't have to empty a canister. I had to do this with our old vacuum and I could never do it without making a mess and getting sneezy and itchy. I do use a Swiffer duster but use the No Name disposable duster refills - one box of these will easily last me a year or better since I find I don't need to change it often.

Cascade Dish Detergent (5.10kg) - I find this the cheapest product that still meets my expectations (clean dishes) - we tend to do about 10 dishwasher loads/week and I put everything in the dishwasher.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Baby #3 Update: It's a......

Prior to finding out the sex of our third - and very likely final - addition to our family, I found myself in a panic last week and frantically texting DH one day. I was feeling hormonal and thought I might be disappointed with whatever the outcome was whether it was a girl or a boy.

I always knew I wanted kids. In my daydreams about what my family would be like in the future whether the children were boys or girls never formed part of my thoughts. No expectations there. Just that we'd have a big family (3 seemed like a good number).

When I was pregnant with B I was confident I was having a girl - mother's intuition. I had dreams about having a daughter and all my symptoms according to old wives tales pointed to girl so when I found out he was  a boy I was really surprised. The happiness didn't come immediately. It took a few moments for me to wrap my head around a new image of what my family was going to look like but we were over the moon never the less. I remember thinking strangely to myself well.. I'll never know what it is like to have a family of all daughters or at least a family with a daughter as the oldest sibling.

With N, I had no guesses or inklings. Probably as a result of being wrong the first time around. DH thought for sure it was a girl. When we found out he was a boy I didn't feel surprised (I know DH was) but did feel excited and happy. A little brother for B. There was something special about the cohesiveness of having two little boys. I did think to myself well we'll never be the "nuclear" family of a boy and a girl. Or be a family with more daughters than sons since we had only really talked about maybe having one more child after this one.

This time around, everything felt very final so I was worried about feeling disappointed if it turned out to be a boy because I might feel sad that we'll likely never have the experience of having a girl. At the same time I was also worried about feeling disappointed if it was a girl because I'd never get to use those cute little boy sleepers, etc. again that I had such memories of with my two boys and I really do love having two little boys. I also worried about how having another baby, boy or girl, might change the dynamic of our family. We are so blessed that B and N really do get along well and love each other very much. What would throwing another child into the mix do to their relationship? DH assured me I was over thinking everything.

I can honestly say, there were no feelings of disappointment when we found out we will be having a boy! The boys were excited, especially B. I guess our family was meant to have 3 boys and it seems right for us!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Budget: What my kids eat.

Having picky eaters can make grocery shopping tough and also add to the cost (cheese strings, granola bars, yogurt tubes, juice boxes, etc).

To clarify our slim grocery expenditures I thought I would share what my kids typically eat. We try to make healthy choices as much as possible but we also think there is a happy medium both in terms of health and cost. We've found it a bit more difficult since B has been in school and sees what other kids eat for lunch regularly to send ultra nutritious or uncommon food for lunches. But by not serving a lot of the typical sugar laden snacks or minimally nutritious "kid-friendly" foods we don't feel so bad about letting the boys eat hot dogs and macaroni and cheese sometimes for lunch.  I have one really good eater and one really picky eater. Most of the things on this list, my really picky eater will eat.


- Cereal with milk - usually Multigrain Cheerios (if on sale), otherwise other low sugar generic brand cereals. Sometimes I'll add fruit like banana or a bit of brown sugar to the top.
- Yogurt and a homemade muffin - I usually add frozen fruit to the french vanilla balkan style yogurt
- Pancakes (No Name old fashioned pancakes with PC table syrup with 15% real maple syrup - gotta make some compromises - especially with the amount of syrup DH goes through. Sometimes I'll add blueberries, chocolate chips, etc. to these to make them more exciting)
- French toast
- Freezer Waffles
- Peanut butter and toast
- Eggs
- Grilled cheese (surprised?)


*B has a thermos he takes to school but will eat some things cold like chicken nuggets and pizza

- Grilled cheese with avocado and pickles on the side
- Cold cuts with cheese, crackers,  and veggies
- Cheese and crackers and veggies or yogurt
- Beans and wieners (we try to go with the lowest sodium count for both)
- Hot dogs
- Frozen pizza or english muffin pizzas (Tip: when buying frozen pizzas always look for a sale - we don't buy them otherwise - but also look at the weight. Some pizzas are 1/2 the amount of grams for the same price as a different kind. Since all pizzas in a certain brand are usually priced the same ie. pepperoni, hawaiian, deluxe - we usually go with the one that weighs the most for the best deal - this is usually deluxe)
- Chicken nuggets or fish sticks with fries (McCain fries have no colouring in them so we opt for these over No Name. We also buy M&Ms nuggets because the ingredients are fewer and more recognizable)
- Spaghetti
- No name macaroni and cheese
- Perigees
- Peanut butter sandwich or jam sandwich for B since his school is peanut free
- Left overs


- What we eat. We don't make separate meals but we also understand that there are some things the kids (and us) REALLY don't like. Most of our meals have a few components (i.e. meat, starch, vegetables). If there is something they hate they don't have to eat it but they still have to eat the rest of the components of the meal.
- Sometimes a little ketchup will get N to eat something he is iffy about and to be fair, if there are things we know the kids don't particularly enjoy we'll only put a little bit of that on their plate.
- We have one rule at our house, if you don't eat your dinner, you don't get dessert.


* Not on this list - most convenience snacks

- Fruit - this is the most popular snack - usually fresh but if canned then in water or fruit juice rather than syrup
- Veggies - mini tomatoes are really popular with both boys
- Apple sauce (unsweetened from a jar)
- Bowl of yogurt with fruit or a yogurt tube if they are on sale
- Crackers and peanut butter
- Crackers and cheese
- Homemade muffins or cookies
- Cake (tip: often a box of cake is cheaper than a box of cookies and some you can get away with not putting icing on)
- Peanut butter sandwich on one piece of bread folded in half


* Nearly all juice we cut with water - even if only 1/4 water (for my picky little guy).

100% Apple Juice - N nearly always requests apple juice to drink.
Orange Juice - Calcium fortified to help with calcium requirements
Water - water is all I send to school with B (my non-picky eater) and he has never complained. N does not like water at all. I am trying to cut his juice with more water and offer him water when he isn't asking for a drink which I'm hoping will make him less thirsty.
Milk - on occasion we can get them to drink a small glass of milk

How do you cut back on the grocery bill while still choosing relatively nutritious foods your kids will eat? Do you opt for more or less convenience foods?