Here We Go

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Today I paid off $2366.36 in credit card debt.

Never. Again.

Ever.

It slips up on you, that consumer debt. A trip abroad with weird exchange rates. Pre-baby expenses. Nights out to eat months and months ago that were never paid off as intended.

Three cards paid in full, to be canceled by Cody when he gets home tonight. One (with a $500.00 limit) to be kept for emergencies but now with a zero balance.

How did we do this you ask?

We’ve become a one car family circa 1950. Hubby goes to work. Mama and the baby stay home and play house. For real. We’re sharing a car.

I had the idea to sell both our vehicles and purchase an older, cheaper one to share back when I was pregnant. Cody was game and we put his truck up for sale . Two months later we sold it for about three grand less than we originally hoped to get. Lesson #1: Vehicles are not investments nor do they represent money in the bank. I wanted to get rid of my upside down loan on my 2012 car with a mere 26,000 miles. Cody intervened with husbandry knowledge and reasoned that we would be taking such a loss getting rid if it that we would be better off to use the funds from selling the truck to knock off a hunk of the loan then push to pay it off quickly. In other word, Dave Ramsey’s baby steps.

So, this morning I took the $8000.00 we made off his truck and paid all our credit card debt and a hefty $5630.00 towards our auto loan. That should knock it down to around $8500.00. Our tax refund will be directed there also. Hopefully we will have it paid off within a year. Then we can get down to business on our mortgage.

I’m going to consciously ignore my student loans for now. Is that ok, Dave? No? Oh well.

Quite the financial new beginning for this new year.

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Summer Showers

In the midst of this unusually rainy summer, we’ve been twice showered by sweet family and friends with baby paraphernalia for Michael Ryan. Baby showers are a wonderful tradition and I am sincerely thankful for each person who has helped us celebrate the impending birth of our firstborn son.

July 28th- hosted by family and friends

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My and Cody’s baby pictures

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Lovely vegetable centerpieces to go with the Peter Rabbit theme

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My dear husband and me (in a not-so-flattering dress). I was thirty-four-ish weeks in this photo.

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Michael Ryan’s soon-to-be Grandmaw, Grandma, Nana… she’s not sure yet 🙂

August 11th- hosted by our church

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My mother and I in stripes

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Delicious cookies with Michael Ryan’s initials

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Beautiful aqua blue punch

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So many cute outfits! I wasn’t expecting to receive so much clothing for a baby boy!

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Now that we’re pretty much ready for our baby’s arrival, I thought I’d share a peek at his nursery.

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Big basket of Econobums cloth diapers, covers, and Snappi fasteners

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Several photos of his baby bed to come. The Beatrix Potter comforter I found at a local thrift store for $2.50. The green crib sheet was in the same bin, matched perfectly, and cost only a quarter. Mother and I used a $1.00 pattern from Hobby Lobby and inexpensive unbleached cotton to make bumpers and a crib skirt.

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An old rocker that’s just my size from my grandmother, another thrift store quilt, and a beautifully soft monogrammed baby blanket.

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Geoff guarding our stash of baby wipes.

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It suddenly occurred to me a few weeks ago that I had nowhere to sit the baby once I inevitably had to go to the bathroom or cook supper or shower or load the washing machine. Luckily, one of Cody’s aunts gifted us this cute bouncer.

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A closet FULL of clothes!

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A blogger I follow suggested creating a nursing basket to keep in our bedroom during the first few weeks so that all the essentials are on hand for late night feedings. Mine includes: blankets, thin cloth diapers for burping, cotton and disposable nursing pads, creams, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, Kleenex, and a nursing cover. I plan to add some bottled water and granola bars, too.

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My sweet friend Alyson got him this awesomely spacious diaper bag. It is ready to go with several coming-home outfit options.

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A bag of towels and waterproof pads for the car and one of our trusty backpacks stuffed with clothing and underwear for our birthday trek to Chattanooga.

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The sweetest church outfit ever.

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We’ve got to get that car seat installed this week!

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Lots and lots of baby blankets and a Moby Wrap that we’re super excited about using.

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Teeny tiny socks

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More towels and wash clothes than we will likely ever need.

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I got these and the larger Beatrix Potter prints on Amazon for a couple of dollars each. The frames are just cheap-os from Hobby Lobby.

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Hamper to be used as a diaper pail (and that will probably wind up outside that door on the porch!)

Summertime Instagram-O-Rama

My last Instagram-o-rama post was on April 17th. If I wait another two months until the next, there’s a good chance it’ll be dominated by baby shower photos and shots of baby toes, lips, and eyelashes. Fair warning.

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A family photo for the Fourth of July

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And another showing how large our boy is getting.

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Since my thesis is on hiatus, I’ve been working a little. Hoping this here six year old Toshiba lasts just a little longer.

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Twenty weeks at Dry Tortugas on the left.  Thirty weeks on the right.

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Precious, sleepy Geoff

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Not a great deal of concern about energy conservation at this point. Seventy-two during the day and sixty-nine at night with all fans on helicopter speed.

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Lovely rainbow beans that have done marvelously. I’ve frozen around twenty quarts.

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First batch of homemade dill pickles.

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Fresh-baked zucchini bread for snacking and freezing. For this batch I used mostly molasses instead of sugar and it was wonderful.

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The garden goodness I experience every day.

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Sweet bird house my dad got me for my birthday that looks like a miniature version of our house.

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I’m 24!

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Every pregnant woman should purchase an exercise ball as soon as she gets a pink plus sign. 

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On my last trip to Chattanooga for a prenatal appointment, I stopped at a rest area and ill-advisedly got a Cherry Coke. Subconsciously, I knew I shouldn’t be drinking it and dropped the entire can all over myself and my car.

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Summertime toes that, so far, haven’t become swollen.

In Which I Get a Bit Political…

A quick glance at Facebook and ten minutes of the morning news informed me that DOMA, or the Defense of Marriage Act, was overturned today. I wasn’t too concerned with this tidbit of information because I was busy gassing up my vehicle, going to the bank, and driving ninety miles to Tennessee to visit my and my unborn babe’s healthcare provider.

Gay marriage honestly isn’t too high on my soap-box priority list; however, it really fires me up that so much thought, effort, concern, argument, and enthusiasm is put into the right to file a piece of paper at the courthouse (yes, I know there’s more to it than this) when I am legally forbidden from birthing my child in my home and must drive to another state to see the healthcare provider that I and my husband have decided, after much prayer and  research, is the most competent  professional to assist me in bringing forth a healthy life into this ol’ world. It disgusts me that so many resources are being wasted on this ethical battle when I must scrounge pennies to pay for cheaper and better healthcare that the health insurance I pay for out-of-pocket refuses to cover.

Does the sacred nature of birth and importance of the bond between a mother and the life which sprung from her very body not trump a volatile relationship between two adults? If two men or two women may marry  and interact as spouses in public, why am I not allowed to give birth in the privacy of my own home?

 

Pregnancy Update: Our Michael Ryan has made the big flip and is now an upside-down baby, which is a very good thing. Hopefully he will continue to hang in there like a possum for the next few months. Today was my last monthly appointment. From now on, I’ll be headed to Chattanooga every other week. We’re getting down to the nitty gritty now!

New Food Strategy

Food is a very important aspect of my life right now. Not only because I’m hungry pretty much all of the time, but also because my food-related responsibilities are about to increase significantly. As we approach the expansion of our family, I recognize that this time marks the beginning of several decades of planning, shopping, and cooking for who knows how many people. It is paramount that I get into a routine that works for us nutritionally as well as financially while there are still just two mouths for me to feed. If I’ve learned anything over the past few of years of marriage, it is that food is the area of our lives I have most control over and, in turn, has the most influence on our health and our budget. Frankly, we allot almost as much (and often more) on food each month as we do on our mortgage. And I’m the one who spends all that money.

Lately, even with all my weekly meal planning, I’ve been spending around $100.00 at the grocery store each Thursday and an additional $30.00-$40.00 during the week on Cody’s ice cream cravings (seriously, it’s never my idea!), snacks, and eating out. That’s simply way too much. It also recently occurred to me that I’m about to be shopping with an infant. Less trips to the grocery store might be a good thing.

So, I talked to Cody and we decided to re-arrange our June and July budgets to allow for an extra-large grocery shopping trip last week. My goal was to shop for three weeks. I literally spent an entire day planning our menu, looking through sale ads, searching Pinterest for frugal recipe ideas, etc. Sadly, I’m so meticulous about my grocery shopping that I’ve memorized the prices of most of my staple items, so I was able to estimate how much I would spend at each store. I went to Aldi and, unfortunately, WalMart (their prices combined with their price match policy lured me in). I actually spent around $40.00 less than I alloted. Twenty-one days of planned breakfasts, lunches, suppers, and snacks for $260.00.

I plan on spending around $20.00 a week on milk, lettuce, and fruit. Not a huge savings once it’s all averaged out, but anything helps and it’s saving me a day of shopping each week. Hopefully, I’ll become more adept at shopping this way and will eventually be able to spend even less. In any case, it’s nice to know I’ve got plenty of butter in the freezer and a bowl full of Clif Bars and Craisens to munch on.

Between my birthday last Friday, Father’s Day over the weekend, and a basket of food brought over by my neighbor yesterday, I’ve saved several meals. We’re also getting a good bit of veggies from our garden now, so I’m relying on that for sides and supplements to our main courses. I’m hoping to stretch what I bought until July 11th.

Third Trimester Checklist

I’m a lover of lists. They cover my refrigerator, take-up blank pages in all my notebooks, and clutter my purse. List making is how I function. Now that I’m pumped up with pregnancy hormones, list making serves as an anxiety-reliever and organizational strategy, not to mention a motivator to keep busy.

On Monday I’ll be twenty-seven weeks pregnant and headed into the third and final trimester of this my first pregnancy. Somedays I feel quite prepared, knowing that a newborn baby doesn’t really need much beside his momma to be happy and healthy. Other days, I feel like I’ve accomplished basically nothing in the past seven months and must rush, rush, rush to get everything done before the Alabama August heat renders me useless for the last few weeks of roundness. On those days, I make lists.

Since I’m being financially forced to take a hiatus from graduate school (another post, another time), I feel like these last three months are going to be the best yet, no matter how large I get 🙂 My number one priority is getting ready for Michael Ryan. I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness for that.

So, here’s the master list.

Things to Buy

2 more sets of Econobums diapers

Hamper with wet bag

Snappis

1 small wet bag or large zip-lock baggies

Several button-up blouses for the beginning weeks of nursing

Nursing bras

Good toilet paper, Cottonelle wipes, etc.

Hand soap, Germ-X, Clorox wipes

Order Birth Kit

Purchase extra items for birth (wash clothes, olive oil, etc.)

Purchase 65″ exercise ball and start bouncing

Camera batteries and SD cards

Things to Pay For

Midwife fee balance: $300.00 by August 20th

Bradley Method Classes: $350.00 (check made-out, first class tomorrow night!)

Doula fee: $500.00 ($200.00 down, $300.00 by by August 27th)

Things to Make, Do, Assemble

Hang nursery prints in correct location

Hang paper blinds in nursery

Make pallet bookshelves for corner

Organize laundry area

Clean-out all kitchen cabinets

Assemble nursing basket for our bedroom (bottled water, burp clothes, creams, etc.)

Clean-out nursery chest

Wash all baby clothes

Wash and dry all diapers at least 3 times

Make padcicles

Make birth playlist

Print just-in-case pre-term labor and transfer birth plans

Pack birth bags (toiletries, clothes for me and Cody, diaper bag for baby)

Food

Stock-up on snacks (Clif Bars, LaraBars, nuts, freeze oatmeal cookie dough…)

Stock-up on staples and meat

Plan birth menu and keep all items on hand after 36 weeks

Purchase breastfeeding herbs and supplements

Make a few freezer meals

Plan some breakfast menu options for Cody

Freeze and can garden produce

I recently read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (and it calmed my nerves tremendously about establishing a succesful nursing relationship). The authors recommended posting a list on the fridge for the first week or so after birth with suggestions for visitors who might want to help out. This gave me an idea. Since we won’t be having any visitors at our midwife’s home where I’ll deliver and won’t be seeing any family or friends until about twelve hours after I give birth, I suspect both of our mothers will be running around like mad women, having been denied the traditional role of grandmothers reigning over the hospital waiting room. So, I’m preparing a list of things for them to do while we’re up in Tennessee having a National Geographic-worthy delivery that doesn’t need any onlookers except my husband. This may sound harsh, but I want to make sure they have something to do and something that will make them feel like they are helping and contributing (and also something to keep them from calling us every half hour for an update). Here’s that list-in-progress:

While we’re in Tennessee, please…

Fill a cooler with ice and stock with bottled water, juices (for me), and Cokes (for visitors)

Finish any laundry that we might have left in the washer or dryer

Wash any dishes that might be in the sink

Make our bed

Feed the animals

Prepare snacks: fruit tray, cut-up veggies with Ranch dressing, crackers, etc.

Clean the bathroom

Sweep inside and both porches

 

Ok, any seasoned mommas out there, what have I left off?

 

Food: 5/30- 6/6

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Since this is a post about food, I thought I’d share a little about the role food has had in my pregnancy so far. One of the many reasons I love midwifery care has been the importance my midwife places on nutrition. I haven’t had any complications so far (knock on wood) and, although I’ve started to slow down a little now that it is regularly in the 90s here in Alabama, my energy level and general feeling of well-being have been fantastic.

My midwife, Carolyn, suggests (requires, requests, urges, etc.) that I consume between 80 and 100 grams of protein per day. That’s alot, y’all. A whole lot. Some days I just can’t get it down. Other days, I surpass 100 and eat a spoonful of natural peanut butter just for fun.

A diet high in protein but low in carbs and sugars has been linked to drastically lower rates of preeclampsia and toxemia. That’s reason enough to eat a little meat at each meal. In addition, when you’re eating as much protein as I am, there’s little room for drive-thru chili cheese fries a la Kim Kardashian or bags of Doritos. Of course I indulge, I’m pregnant! But I’ve found that what I really crave are the foods my body needs to grow this child inside me. Never in my life have I drank glasses of (whole) milk but without at least one or two a day I feel malnourished. At twenty-five weeks, I’ve gained 11-ish pounds. I’ve had no swelling, no body aches, very few headaches, no nausea since about 12 weeks, no blood pressure issues, no kidney infections or UTIs,  precious little heartburn, and one very active baby.

My meal plans don’t quite give you a good idea about what I actually eat everyday because I’m eating four or five mini-meals instead of the three listed (these are primarily for Cody). For example, I usually have a glass of milk or orange juice and maybe half of a bacon, egg, and cheese on whole wheat sandwich thins when Cody eats breakfast at 6:30 a.m. I usually sneak back in bed after he leaves until 9:30 a.m. or so and eat again when I wake back up. Milk or juice, ice water, maybe some fruit, and the other half of my first breakfast are the usual second breakfast. I’ll have a snack sometime around 11:00 a.m., often involving peanut butter or Greek yogurt (14 grams of protein in a Chobani!). I’ve been eating lunch a little later in the day now and it usually involves a steamed vegetable of some sort and fruit or maybe leftovers from the night before. I’ll eat another protein-rich snack mid-afternoon, often something cheesy. Supper is whatever is listed on my menu plan and is often a last-ditch effort to rack up on my protein for the day. If I haven’t done very well, I’ll eat another protein rich snack or “dessert” after supper. Maybe a banana with peanut butter, fruit, a yogurt, or a glass of milk with an ice-cold red apple. Cookies and milk are another favorite. The few times indigestion has hit have been after I’ve eaten junk or bread late in the evening, so I try not to eat too much after 8:00 p.m.

Who knows how my body will handle this last and, from what I hear, hardest trimester. Nevertheless, a focus on protein, fresh produce, whole fat dairy, and a small daily dose of whole grains has really paid off for me so far. I feel like my body is getting everything it needs to grow my child and build up my strength for labor and a long and abundant breastfeeding relationship. I strongly encourage anyone who is preparing to conceive or who is pregnant to think carefully about your diet. Not for the purpose of gaining the perfect 20 pounds so that the baby weight melts away quickly, but because it is one thing that you have the most control over during pregnancy that yields the greatest and most remarkable results when attended to carefully and purposefully. Instead of focusing on not eating that whole package of Oreos that you just can’t get out of your mind (I’ve been there), focus on stuffing in all the good stuff that you haven’t included in your meals that day. More often than not, I am thinking about what I haven’t yet eaten on a given day than regretting what I have.

Just a little hormonal rant. I’m off to eat a plate of roast beef. Here’s our frugal-midwife’sfeeissoondue-Ineedtobuyclothdiapers-ohmygoodness-he’llbeherebeforeweknowit-meal plan for next week. Notice the protein 🙂

Thursday
Breakfast-eggs and orange slices, green smoothies
Lunch- tuna salad with lettuce, apple, Greek yogurt
Supper- steakfingers in coconut oil with turnip greens and corn on the cob

Friday
Breakfast-bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on whole wheat thins
Lunch-leftovers with salad, boiled eggs, grapes, bananas
Supper-pinto beans, ham, fried corn bread, fried zucchini

Saturday
Breakfast-bacon and eggs
Lunch-family reunion (make double batch of banana pudding and fruit pizza)
Supper-grilled Dale’s chicken with baked potatoes and salad

Sunday
Breakfast-sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwiches on whole wheat thins
Lunch-Ranch chicken salad with carrots, lettuce, chips
Supper- Paleo chicken fried “rice” with veggies (use leftover chicken)

Monday
Breakfast- cheesy eggs with fruit
Lunch- leftovers, oranges, grapes
Supper- whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce

Tuesday
Breakfast- bacon and eggs
Lunch- tuna salad with peanut butter and honey sandwiches on whole wheat thins
Supper- fried pork chops in coconut oil, honey mustard roasted red potatoes, green beans

Wednesday
Breakfast- bacon and eggs
Lunch- leftovers
Supper- homemade chicken nuggets in coconut oil with English peas and potatoes

Thursday
Breakfast- bacon and eggs with fruit
Lunch- leftover chicken on salad with boiled eggs

Food: 5/16- 5/23

Thursday

Breakfast- cookies and milk

Lunch- leftover chicken fried rice

Supper- whole wheat spaghetti with meatballs and Parmesan

Friday

Breakfast- bacon and fruit

Lunch- leftover spaghetti, fruit, cookies

Supper- Hawaiian chicken with broccoli

Saturday

Breakfast- sausage links, fried eggs, fruit

Lunch- loaded baked potato quiche

Supper- Wedding!

Sunday

Breakfast- Greek yogurt pancakes with maple syrup and peach smoothies

Lunch- leftover quiche with canned tomato soup

Supper- honey mustard pork chops, green beans, corn on the cob

Monday

Breakfast- bacon, egg, and cheese on whole wheat sandwich thins

Lunch- tuna salad, fruit, tortilla chips

Supper- steakfingers fried in coconut oil, fried corn bread, salad, deviled eggs

Tuesday

Breakfast- sausage, egg, and cheese on whole wheat sandwich thins

Lunch- leftover steak fingers with baked potato

Supper- taco salad with peppers and onions

Wednesday

Breakfast- sausage and fried eggs

Lunch- tuna salad

Supper- baked Parmesan chicken with brown rice and broccoli

Thursday

Breakfast- sausage links and eggs with fruit

Lunch- leftover baked chicken on salad with boiled eggs

Snacks

popcorn, real food chocolate no-bake bars, (make ahead and freeze) green smoothies, cucumber sandwiches, carrots and ranch, peach smoothies, turkey bacon, fruit

 

Rolling

It occurred to me today that although this blog was intended to be about our finances, it has come to be more about our life. Here’s a little money post.

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We’ve got a long list of upcoming expenses to prepare for: midwife fee (thankfully we were able to retrieve some money from Cody’s old life insurance policy to cover the bulk of that), doula fee, childbirth classes, cloth diaper purchases, another big trip to Dry Tortugas National Park in April, several home improvement projects that need to be completed before the baby comes, etc. On top of all that, this last full semester of graduate school combined with the pregnancy exhaustion I’ve been experiencing has resulted in me working very little in the past month or so. Although I do plan to continue to work as much as possible, it is becoming obvious that I’ve got a full plate regardless. Our chicken project, big plans for a massive garden, budgeting and bill paying, housework, cooking, and baby-growing are also almost solely my responsibility. Whew!

Obviously, frugality is a top priority at this point in our lives and we don’t foresee letting our financial guard down anytime in the near future. After the list above is complete and the baby is born, we plan to really buckle down and work on chipping away at our mortgage. I’m spending much of my free time thinking about and planning ways to save money. Meal planning has made about a $30.00 difference in our grocery budget each week. I’m on the hunt for canning and freezing supplies and plan to put everything we grow plus bulk produce that’s cheap here in Alabama like tomatoes, peaches, strawberries, etc. into the freezer or pantry in the next few months. We’ve gone without cable before and I’m slowly persuading Cody to cut the ties again. I’m working on stashes of cloth napkins and rags as well as DIY cloth diapers to supplement the Econobums we plan to purchase.

Because my personal income is very little, I feel horribly guilty about spending money on things for me. I spent two days and went to countless stores last week before I finally broke down and spent $12.00 on a new bra that I desperately needed. I’ve purchased very little clothing for the baby because I’ve had such a hard time finding the gender-neutral items I’d like to stock-up on before we find out if it’s a he or she in early April. Thanks to Cody’s cousin, I’ve spent only $20.00 on maternity clothes that I’m now beginning to need. As far as the nursery, the McNuggets just moved out yesterday so I have yet to begin the obligatory decorating process. I bought a $1.00 Peter Rabbit book at Target a few days ago because I want to use a Beatrix Potter theme. We’re on the hunt for a baby bed to borrow or buy used. Linens, bedding, and curtains I’ll make myself with the help of my mother. I’m doing a whole bunch of Pinterest-looking, web browsing, and window shopping but precious little buying.

But sometimes, I just want some spending cash. That’s what this post is really about. I don’t keep extra money in my checking account, hate to withdraw funds out of savings unless it’s necessary, and feel bad taking money out of our vacation cash stash. Tomorrow, I’m meeting-up with my best friend, Alyson, for breakfast and thrift shopping (she’s a fellow frugal-minded gal). Frankly, my car is on E and my last $1.00 bill isn’t going to buy the gravy biscuit I know I’ll want for breakfast. So I rolled.

After digging through my car, all my purses, two baskets Cody tosses his change in, the bottom of the washing machine, and random drawers, I rolled $29.00 worth of change. That’s an entire day of entertainment for this girl! A squirt of gas, carb-loaded breakfast, and a few hours thirfting with a good friend… sounds like a wonderful time to me.

This goes to show you that if you don’t get into the habit of treating yourself all of the time, very little can seem like a fortune.