Day One of J’s “Elimination Diet.” His belly feels no better but no worse either. This diet, if continued for two weeks, should determine if he has food sensitivities to milk, eggs or gluten. If he is sensitive to carbohydrates in general, this diet will not determine anything since he’s still have plenty of high-carb fruits. I’m so conflicted about the right way to proceed and wonder if this will “prove” anything.

Breakfast: Rice Chex with no milk.
Lunch: Turkey (from the crock pot), cranberry sauce, black-eyed peas
Dinner: Grilled BBQ Chicken, Baked Beans, Mashed Potatoes (butter but no milk)
Snacks: Smoothie (strawberry, kale, banana, apple, orange, orange juice)
Bedtime Snack: cantaloupe

Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you ready or not, to put this plan into action. – Napoleon Hill

Every year or so I comb through our expenses and see where we can save. Most money-saving sights focus on your unfixed expenses. All those daily habits where we spend money without thinking about it. Coupons and shopping for sale items are largely a part of this philosophy. Also included might be taking your lunch to work or not buying that daily designer coffee. I am a frugal gal so I embrace these ideas with fervor, however, I think saving money must also look at your fixed costs that most people assume cannot be changed. Or, most honestly, we don’t want to take the time to change.

It is absolutely ridiculous what we (along with our neighbors) spend on technology. Land line, cell phones, cable, internet are fixed costs that only seem to go up every 12 months. We have already gone to an internet-based phone saving us $12 a month (that’s $144 a year). We dropped my husband’s cell phone after his work began providing a smart phone. My barebones cell phone is for emergency only and rolls over the minutes so I won’t go over if I ever use it much.

A few months back, our cable company decided that unless you bundle multiple services, they can’t give you a break. So we are trying to walk away from them. Since I can’t convince my husband to throw the televisions out the window, we are going “over the air.” We have installed an antenna that gives us a clearer picture and actually a few more channels. We will still have to invest in a converter box for our older television but will no longer have our monthly cable bill. We were spending about $25 a month for basic cable that had about 12 channels. Now, it is none. We do have an initial cost but should be saving $300 a year within a few months.

Our next move is to change our internet provider so that we can get streaming ESPN over the internet and pay less. We’re still in the process so I’ll let you know if it works.

How do you save money on technology? What fixed expenses can you lower?

“Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.” Benjamin Franklin 

January is a great time to make those infamous New Year’s Resolutions – and then promptly break them. But my challenge today is to start acting on those money resolutions in January because you really are starting new. Things I have already started to act on:

* Track spending so I know where the money is going. I have always done this with various computer programs. I used Quicken and got cheap and switched to Mint.com. This free version didn’t do everything I wanted so this year I have started the process of switching another free online program called YodleeMoneyCenter. Since you link your accounts (credit card included) to the program, it automatically downloads everything. It categorizes and then budgets your spending.

* Tracking spending does not prevent overspending so planning to have a monthly review with my husband to ensure we are on track.

* I have also set up a Health Savings Account in conjunction with my new health insurance. After reviewing our budget and deciding on an amount, I will do an automatic withdrawal into this account. This should prepare us for any future medical expenses that might occur. I will also review our other automatic withdrawals to make sure we are on target for a new car (transmission is acting funny these days) and a vacation.

* Meal planning, or the lack thereof, is the one area that I would like to see improvement. Although I don’t go out to eat at the last-minute, I do have unnecessary stress about the meals and sometimes throw away food that I intend to use but don’t get to in time.

What are your financial goals for 2012? What resolutions have you already acted on? What program/method do you use to track your spending? Do you have a Health Savings Account or other medical account?

The experts make it sound so simple. Pinch pennies. Spend less than you make. Use coupons. Cash-only envelope system. The list of solutions to living the big life is long. There are hundreds of books that profess the best way to get ahead in this dog-eat-dog world.

I cannot profess to have found the solution, but I can say that whatever path you take, it is not as simple as these experts make it sound. Every book, article or class in my life has sounder much easier than the action required. I have come to the full conclusion that the best way to get ahead is to pay attention and to act. No one method will succeed in your life forever and we must be willing and able to adapt as our lives and the marketplace evolve.

Every six months are so, I feel as if we are pursuing another change in our life that is a headache in the short-term but will save us in the long-term. For example…

Less than six months ago, the kids and I were insured in a no-frills health insurance program. I was satisfied with the low-cost (if you call $300 a month inexpensive) of the health insurance. We were healthy and choose not to pay for some of the riders such as maternity and doctor’s visits. We would pay out-of-pocket if we needed. I was blissfully ignorant of the unrealistic maximums that the program enforced.

I could have chosen to continue to convince myself that I was “insured” but chose to act on a suggestion from a book. I took the policy to a professional insurance broker who took the time to review the policy, He warned me of the poor coverage we would receive in the event of a major medical tragedy. Not only have I now switch to a Health Savings Account insurance that provides more comprehensive coverage, I am also saving $30 a month.

What one action has saved you money? Or what action do you wish you had taken that would have saved you money?

“We can try to avoid making choices by doing nothing, but even that is a decision.”  -Gary Collins

Young children pass through many milestones that are bitter sweet. My three year old son started preschool this January. He started in the middle of the school year in a three day half day church program.

The morning he walked into that class began a new era in my life. I went from being a stay-at-home mom who was always with her children to a mom that had nine hours a week FREE. Free from feeding, entertaining or cleaning after any children for a brief amount of time. It sounds liberating but has created problems I didn’t know existed.

I am faced with the task of prioritizing my time. It would be easy to shop the entire time or visit with friends or make appointments (I haven’t had a mammogram in years). I have plenty to do. But what are the most urgent and important? What should I do first and what should I let slide?

I must also determine my next stage in life. Three mornings a week will morph into five full days when all the kids are in school. How do I want to live those empty days? What do I want to pursue in that next stage of life? I feel blessed to be given the option of choosing. With that option comes the obligation to be wise.

Finally, I must determine if this is the right path for my son. Because his birthday is in August, only two weeks before the public school cut-off date, he is on the cusp for classes. Just because he can be in a class does not necessarily mean that he will thrive in a class. I must depend heavily on his teachers to help guide this decision.

The saying “when one door closes, another one opens” is oh so true in parenting. What doors have been difficult for you to close? What doors have you been avoiding?

“The future has several names. For the weak, it is the impossible. For the fainthearted, it is the unknown. For the thoughtful and valiant, it is the ideal.” – Victor Hugo

I thought that parenting only got easier with each child. Somehow, I would learn the tricks and avoid the pitfalls I had made with the previous child(ren). So, when my third child was born and the other two were fairly normal at ages 4 1/2 and 6 1/2, I thought this wouldn’t be so hard.

Boy was I wrong! I became slack. I expected the older children to cater to him since he was the baby. I hoped his behavior was just a phase. We’ll at 3 1/2, he has a mouth like a sailor (hate, b-tthead, dummie), won’t sleep without a struggle and rarely does what either of his parents ask. In general, he is a cute kid but extremely strong-willed and occasionally ill-mannered.

I began the painful process of retraining him and me. I’ve watched for triggers and noticed a few things that will help us both. 

First, his behavior will not get better when I ignore it. Yep, I have been letting minor behaviors slip in the hopes that if he gets what he wants, he’ll act better. When he was younger, this generally worked. So, I got lazy and he became indulged. His older brother, sister and parents would just give him what he wanted so he thought the world revolved around himself.  No more.

Second, he becomes “mean” when he is tired. I thought he was fairly flexible having been dragged along from a young age. But really, he needs his sleep and I need to better ensure that he receives it.

Third, keep him out of trouble. He has seemed bored with just me at home. He was used to the stimulation of having older siblings and couldn’t settle at home. Although I am not a big fan of putting kids in preschool when you are a stay-at-home mom, I recognized that he yearned to be around kids. Hence, the enrolling of him in a three-day, morning class.

What observations have you made about your child’s behavior? What are the triggers for bad behavior and how do you off-set them?

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”  Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

It seemed innocent enough – visit a gorgeous local park complete with short walking path and open green spaces. I challenged my eight-year-old son to run with me around the pond. It was probably only 1/4 mile around but I did it slowly and with heavy legs.

The walk took us to a less crowded picnic area where we played Tag. I quickly declared where the bases were and used them liberally. Only 15 minutes of this and I was DONE. The possiblity of a 5K is a long way off but it was something.

 

Women gather together to wear silly hats, eat dainty food, and forget how unresponsive their husbands are.  Men gather to talk sports, eat heavy food, and forget how demanding their wives are.  Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960