Our Debt, Our Budget

There is a great post on Serving Joyfully called “Our Frugal Budget“.In it, Crystal outlines her family’s budget and plan to get out of debt. And they did!

These are our debts:

Bank Loan $4,428.65
Credit Card $10,423.21
Student Loans $2,279.54
Mortgage $289,380.03
Car Loan $15,517.49

That’s a total of $322,028.90. Very debt. Much ouch.

Expenses:

CABLE INTERNET $70
CAR INSURANCE $270
LIFE INSURANCE $15
ELECTRIC/GAS $150
NETFLIX $12
CELL PHONES $100
CHARITABLE $50
WATER/SEWER $100
TRASH/RECYCLE $50
GROCERIES $500
HOUSEHOLD $200
CAT MONEY $400
GAS MONEY/CAR FUND $400
ENTERTAINMENT SUBSCRIPTION $40
DEBT: STUDENT LOAN $250
DEBT: CREDIT CARD $475
DEBT: MORTGAGE, etc. $2,200
DEBT: BANK LOAN $125
DEBT: CAR LOAN $400
TOTAL LIVING EXPENSES: $5,807

Okay. That’s about $300 total LESS than we bring home in a month. And we’re grateful to have vision, medical, dental, and a retirement plan–okay, okay, 401Ks. But still.

By using $200 from that remainder, we can literally have everything paid off (except the house) in two years or less. While we could try to cut more, it wouldn’t do much to decrease our debt load. I did the numbers one day and decided no, we really do need hot water and refrigeration and a cable modem. We could try to get additional jobs, but I’m salaried and technically always on call; the Atheist is on call one week per month, and his health isn’t supportive of him working more than full time. We aren’t willing to nuke our standard of living so much in order to pay a teensy bit more to debts.

Yes, I know that makes us one of those “high income” families with debt. But let me tell you something…Seattle metro area = super expensive. Our income combined is like $58,000 in St. Louis, MO. We do have circumstances keeping us in the area and in our house, so we can’t follow the advice of others to “just move to a cheaper area and get a different high paying job”. And as for selling our stuff? Yeah…not much here most folks would be interested in buying…we certainly didn’t get into debt by buying high end toys we can sell on Craigslist.

Salt Dough – with or without cinnamon

Have you ever found yourself wanting to make something really cool for a weekend or holiday project? Ever find yourself staring at the prices for things like Sculpey at the crafts-n-hobbies stores and wondering how you could afford to buy that AND eat for the rest of the month?

Want to be crafty, save money, *and* have fun? Why not try a salt dough project?

Salt dough is pretty cool. You can make ornaments or even awesome little sugar skulls from it! Sure, preschoolers love it too, and it’s generally safe for the cats to be around.

The runes in my header are made from cinnamon salt dough.

BASIC RECIPE – SALT DOUGH
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup very hot water

Heat water til very hot; mix with flour and salt.

VARIATION: CINNAMON SALT DOUGH
Add 1 Tbsp cinnamon to your dough.

CURING SALT DOUGH
Bake at 250 degrees until fully dry. Or, stick in your dehydrator for 24 hours. Or just let your creations air dry on baking racks.

What can you do with salt dough? (Other than keep more of your hard earned money while still having fun doing crafts?)

  • Use cookie cutters and paint or glitter; make beautiful ornaments
  • Make inexpensive wreaths
  • Make inexpensive keepsakes (baby’s footprint, anyone?)
  • Roll out into lozenge shapes and make your own set of runes
  • Make beads
  • Make dolls
  • Make figurines
  • Use smaller cookie cutters and make place tags for dinner parties
  • Gift tags for holiday or birthday gifts
  • Create alphabet or counting tiles for kids to play with and learn
  • Make play food for fashion dolls or a faerie garden

Save

Things I want to save to remember from “Modern Pioneering” by Georgia Pellegrini

One of the thirteen books I checked out of the library today was Georgia Pellegrini’s “Modern Pioneering”. It’s one of those almost Pinterest-y books that reads like a cross between a personal journal and a women’s magazine. Definite contract to the new edition of “The Two Income Trap” by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi.

I was reminded by this book that I could dehydrate my own figs/apples/pineapples and make my own strawberry/wine fruit leather. A friend’s father kindly sent us home with home-dehydrated homegrown figs and strawberries. Now I’m thinking maybe, just maybe, we need a fig tree in the front yard.

Also, red currants and hazelnut. And rugosa roses, for their beautiful and useful rose hips.

I’ve been feeling anxious about finances lately–it happens from time to time with me, and lately it’s been serious–but I find that if I get out to the library and work on plans for debt repayment and the future, I get over it much quicker. Due to some seriously strange events at work, I’m also going to have a chunk of overtime on the next check. That should help with paying things off.

The same garden-loving friend is working on a meal plan for those with a low income. I’ll be working on mine too. Our family of 3 had a US$100 budget for food this week, and I spent just under US$94. I still need to buy dishwasher tablets for our machine, but it will end up under US$100 regardless.

Herb Syrup:
1/2 cup rosemary, or 1 cup other herbs
2 cups sugar
3 cups water

Bring 3 cups water to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat.
Remove pan from heat and add herbs. Cover and let them steep for 3 hours to strongly infuse the water.
Strain the liquid into a medium non-reactive saucepan. Add sugar and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar completely.
Boil to thicken, without stirring, for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pan from heat. Let syrup cool to room temperature and bottle the syrup. It will store well in the refrigerator for three months.

Smoked Salts:
1/2 cup salt
1 cup wood chips

Line bottom of a wok or wide, deep pot with aluminum foil and place 1 cup of wood chips on top
Lay another piece of foil gently above it, leaving plenty of air. Pour your salt evenly on the sruface  and place the lid on the pot.
Turn the burner on medium heat and let the salt smoke for 20 minutes. You may want to turn your stove vents on, though it won’t become overwhelmingly smoky. If the smoke seems too intense, turn down the heat.
After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and leavet he covered pot as-is for 5 minutes to let the smoke subside. Remove lid and top piece of foil. Pour salt into a storage jar with a lid to keep by the stove.

A frivolous expense that saves me money

You know how when you’re looking for tips on how to pay off debt and save money, people *always* put in something like: “Make your own coffee instead of spending on lattes as the cafe”?

Yeah, I hate that tip. Not because I spend tons of money at corner cafes. In the last 90 days I’ve spent maybe $45 on coffee when I’ve been out. (Fast food, on the other hand…ugh. That’s a hole in the budget.) When you consider I have to do non-dairy milk and I enjoy flavors in my coffee, buy the biggest size, and tip well, I think I’ve been out for coffee about 7 times in the last 90 days.

I hate the “make your own coffee” thing because, well–my coffee wasn’t coming out as well. Even using Gevalia and filtered water. Even adding a pinch of cinnamon and/or cloves. Even adding flavored syrups–at $6 a bottle, even though they last quite a while, it just wasn’t the same. Something was missing.

Since I’m the only coffee drinker in the half heathen household, I purchased an inexpensive Bella espresso machine from Target a few years back. That $40 has more than paid for itself since I can now make coffee at home easily for one person, but the coffee was still missing that “something” that I just couldn’t put my finger on. So I kept buying coffee out sometimes, up until recently.

On a whim, I purchased a flavored non-dairy liquid creamer at the grocery store. International Delight Hazelnut coffee creamer, in fact. It’s a frivolous expense when you consider our tight grocery budget. But if I put a full tablespoon into my coffee, I’m not tempted to go out for coffee. Literally the frivolous $2.50 I spent on creamer is saving us some money.¬† (Okay…okay…I may have bought the pumpkin spice creamer the next week. But I’ve only gone out and purchased prepared coffee drinks once since then! Once!)

I know, I know–sweetened liquid fat isn’t all that healthy. But when compared to hundreds of calories consumed and hundreds of dollars spent, a 35 calorie tablespoon of non-dairy flavored creamer daily isn’t that bad.

“Neti Pot” solution

12 oz distilled water – tap water that’s been boiled and cooled is okay too!
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt

Dissolve baking soda and table salt in water. Warm to appropriate temperature and use as your sinus rinse dispensary agent directs.

 

Some helpful experiences:
– Water up the nose isn’t bad as long as it’s a controlled stream and you breathe through your mouth.
– The first time you try this is the hardest. The water may be too hot and your desire to squirt things up your nose might be low.
– Easiest to do this in the shower, and use a spare washcloth to blow your nose into after. We use cheapie white washcloths from a big box retailer (10 for $4) and throw them in with our bleach load.
– It helps but it’s not a true cure for me for the swelling and blockages. This plus a product like Flonase or Nasacort might serve some folks better.
– If you want to get trapped water in your sinuses to come out easier, reach down like you’re trying to touch your toes from a standing position. Hold for three seconds. Then as you stand upright again, the water will usually dislodge itself. I grab an extra washcloth for those moments too, because who wants to get their feet wet by stepping in nose water? Ugh.
– Pre-measured packets are very expensive compared to the raw materials, and we can get the materials at the grocers. Must be all that marketing…

Hello there! Come meet the cats!

These are the household cats:

Boots

This is Mr. Boots. He was adopted first. His family was losing their house, but I got to bring Boots home. Also known as “the catloaf”, Boots tends to be very vocal about food and getting his way. Recently he found his way outside into the back yard by cleverly sliding open the screen on the window and jumping out onto the deck stairs.

 

Athena

This is Miss Athena. She was adopted second as a companion for Boots, but they have never fully gotten along as friends. Athena loves her cat tree, loves to play with anything string-like, and prefers oat grass sprouts to other types of greens. She still hisses at Mordecai and will often still hiss at Chloe-Blue.

 

Chloe-Blue

Miss Chloe-Blue. One of two cats who came to us through a friend of a friend, we were told she “isn’t social” and “doesn’t much interact with humans”. Although it’s joked she is the Kristen Stewart of cats due to her continually slightly sour facial expression, she is a three to four year old kitty who enjoys playing like a kitten, getting water from the bathroom faucet, and she has a wicked sense of humor. Often she will ambush Boots and then chase after him, turn around, and run away.

 

Mordecai

Mr. Mordecai. The other half of the pair, Mordecai is arguably top cat in the house since his arrival less than a year ago. He tends to counter Boots’ attempts at dominance in the kitty social order, has an anxiety condition (due to having only two teeth? malicious treatment by humans?), and is still curious about Athena. His two favorite hobbies include intimidating other cats to get prime spots on human laps and playing in the laundry.

 

The cats are the reason we bought the house. The house is the reason we’re expanding our garden. Once we have the fence enclosure set up, the cats will get to play in the garden. There will be lots of pictures of the cats here.