Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yard sales finds - what did you find this weekend?

We weren't planning on hitting any yard sales this past Saturday, but as we were heading home from a night of camping on Friday night, we passed a sale near our house. My husband is as addicted to a good yard sale as I am and he pulled the van over so we could check out the sale.

I love the botanical prints, but they were very dusty. I think I am going to paint the frames. The prints have a shabby chic feel to them, but I'm not sure where I will hang them.

I don't know what I am going to do with all of those pots, but they are in good condition. I might attempt this craft project that was in our newspaper over the weekend.

Everything was $3.00.

What gems did you find this past weekend?

Thanks for reading FamilyBalanceSheet. If you don't already receive FBS free updates, please click here to sign up.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My first broccoli harvest

I feel like a new mother all over again. I planted broccoli for the first time this spring and I harvested it this week. I received the free tiny broccoli plants when I took a gardening seminar at a local nursery back in May. My daughter and I excitedly planted them, because broccoli is a staple at our house. We had steamed broccoli with our dinner a couple of times this week. It was delicious, but I think I especially liked it because it came from our garden.

This picture was taken on June 10th. I didn't realize how big the leaves get. They are actually blocking one of my tomato plants from the sun. I planted them too close together when I didn't realize the eventual size of the broccoli.

Besides the broccoli, I have 5 tomato plants, 1 sweet pepper plant, 1 jalapeno plant and various herbs. I also planted 2 blueberry plants. I don't plant too much because we don't have a lot of space and we get most of veggies from a CSA.

How is your garden doing? What have you harvested this week?

Thanks for reading FamilyBalanceSheet. If you don't already receive FBS free updates, please click here to sign up.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yard sales and thrifting gems: What have you found this season?

I love a good yard sale. I love to go to them and to have them. Although going to them can sometimes play havoc on my de-cluttering mission.

I am trying very hard to resist non-essential yard sale purchases; it just adds to our clutter. I have found a few fun bargains so far this summer.

My 3 1/2 year old has inquired about soccer. Her older cousins play and we try to go to their games. I found these black and pink Adidas soccer cleats at the Salvation Army for $1.50. They were hardly worn. They are too big now, but hopefully when she is old enough to sign her up they will fit. If not, I will just sell them at a yard sale. If she can wear them, I saved myself about $12.50 since Foot Locker is selling them for $14.99 online. The hardly worn shin guards were a dollar and they are also about $14.99 online.

These dessert parfaits and canning jars were in a FREE box. They just needed a run through the dishwasher and they are like new. I really didn't need the parfaits, but ice cream is a family favorite in the summers. We are trying to save money, so I am making special ice cream treats at home instead of going to the ice cream shops. The canning jars came in handy for my strawberry freezer jam. And I couldn't resist FREE.

Who doesn't need a good summer book and pancake molds? I really didn't need the molds, but I thought they would be fun for the kids. They were still in the packaging and never used. That is a sink basket in front of the book.

These Tupperware canisters are not from this summer's yard sale season. I have been collecting them for years. I am looking for two more bigger ones, preferably in the blue color. I store everything in them, from flour, sugar, corn meal, popcorn, pretzels and coffee. They have a tight seal and keep things fresh. Thankfully I have a big lazy susan cabinet to store them in.

I am looking for fall clothes for my oldest daughter, but I'm not having much luck. I am picky about clothes. I want them to be like new and a lot of the clothes I have found just haven't been in good condition.

I would also love to find a bread maker, but haven't had much luck with that either.

Looking forward to Saturday morning...

How has your yard sale season been so far? Have you found some great gems? What are you looking for? Have you hosted a sale yet? Was it successful?

Thanks for reading FamilyBalanceSheet. If you don't already receive FBS free updates, please click here to sign up.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pick-your-own strawberries

Do your taste buds a favor and go to a local strawberry patch...go immediately. If you're in the northeast like we are, the season is probably winding down. Unfortunately strawberry season is short, but oh-so-sweet.

I went two weeks ago and picked 12 quarts. This past weekend was pretty jammed packed, but I made sure to squeeze in time to go one last time and I picked another 8 quarts. Our local PYO strawberry patch charges $1.30 a pound. Compared to trucked-in strawberries from the west coast at $2.00-$2.50/lb.

Basically I am up to my eyeballs in strawberries. We have eaten strawberry shortcake, strawberry spinach salad, strawberry cheesecake trifle, and strawberries on our cereal and ice cream. And we still aren't sick of them. I have also made 2 batches of freezer jelly. I use the Ball No Cook freezer jelly. Very easy to make and oh-so-yummy to eat. I cleaned the remaining berries and bagged them to put in the freezer for a later time for homemade strawberry ice cream and smoothies.

Have you picked strawberries this season? Do you have any recipes to share?

Thanks for reading FamilyBalanceSheet. If you don't already receive FBS free updates, please click here to sign up.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Petty cash fund - Does your family have one?

We have an envelope, in an undisclosed location, where we keep cash. It is not an emergency fund or our monthly adult cash allowance and there isn't a lot of cash in the envelope. Yet it is a place where we can go to if we need a quick $10-$20 for a last minute pizza dinner or the neighbor kids are knocking with Girl Scout cookies, or the pick your own strawberry patch or a yard sale outing, the list goes on and on... The money in the envelope comes from our yard sales, rebates, Christmas gift money or other sources of "found" money.

The envelope comes in handy and I feel less stressed knowing that we have a little bit of cash tucked away. I try not to carry a lot of cash around with me in my wallet because I spend it too freely when it is there.

There is a little more structure with a petty cash fund as it pertains to businesses. Even though I treat our family finances much like a small business, I am not going to add more work to my day by making sure we itemize what we use the petty cash fund for. It is money for our family and no questions are asked.

How do you manage last minute purchases? Do you have a petty cash fund?

Thanks for reading FamilyBalanceSheet. If you don't already receive FBS free updates, please click here to sign up.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Utility bills: Are you lovin' your bills this month?

Don't you just love this time of year? There are usually several weeks or maybe months when it is too warm to use your heater and too cool to need AC. All of our windows are wide open letting in fresh air. The nights are a little breezy that we might still need a blanket. Hot coffee still tastes really good in the cool mornings. AND my electric/gas bill that I got in the mail yesterday was $200 less than what it was in February. woohoo!!

I am not a martyr for frugality, I will turn on the AC when the heat hits the upper 80's. One summer, a couple of years ago, I tried to go as long as I could without turning on the AC and I got bugs in my kitchen cupboards. I had to throw everything out; rice, flour, sugar, pasta, cereal, everything. I cried because of all of the food that was thrown away. It was the first time I have ever had bugs in my kitchen and my mother told me it was from the high heat.

We will go as long as we can and take advantage of the low utility bills. When the AC finally has to be turned on, I become more adamant about making sure lights and other unused electronics are turned off.

Right now I am enjoying the breezy early summer.

Have you noticed lower utility bills lately? At what point will you turn on the AC?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Financial To-Do list - What's on your list?

I am a list maker. As I sit at my desk I am looking at 4 different lists, no, make that 5, I see another brightly colored post-it. I love brightly colored, lined post-its. I am also a collector of notepads. I have tons of them...

Seriously, I have several very important things on my master to-do list. Items that directly and indirectly affect our FamilyBalanceSheet. For some reason I have been procrastinating on these items. So in the spirit of blogging and making myself accountable, I am posting my list. Strangely this list looks a little familiar, oh wait a minute, some of these items are on my 2009 goal list. I haven't looked at that list since January, when I wrote it. This time I am taping it to my wall over my desk. Maybe that will inspire me to tackle it.

  1. We must,must,must put together a will. I am ashamed that we have not done so. I bought Suze Orman's Will and Trust program over a year ago and I have not finished it. This is really irresponsible of me and I need to get this done!!

  2. Finalize the asset allocation for our retirement plans. I am shifting our retirement accounts from actively managed funds to index funds. I will elaborate at a later time.

  3. Update our house to-do list. We have many small and large, urgent and non-urgent things to do around our house. We need to prioritize the list and make projections on how much money we will need.

  4. Increase our monthly payment towards my husband's student loan. This really is our 800 lb gorilla. Thank goodness the interest is only 2.75%, but the principle is about the size of our mortgage. It seems like it will never go away.

  5. Start college funds for the girls. As former swimmers, we are hoping they will be awarded scholarships. They're only 3.5 and 14 months, so we have awhile until we know their full potential, but can't a parent dream.

  6. Increase our emergency savings. We have had to use some of our savings over the past few months when our business turned slightly soft. We are working hard to turn the biz around, hence my husband's near breakdown. One of the smartest things we did many years ago was properly fund an emergency savings account. It has been a life-saver and now I need to build it back up.

I have my list posted and now I need to devise an action plan. Details to come...

What's on you financial to-do list? How do you get motivated to cross some items off of your list?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Happy June

I'm back from my break. My family and I had a relaxing vacation. My husband really needed to get away. He was dangerously close to a breakdown; sometimes a side effect of self-employment. We both feel rejuvenated and ready for an awesome summer.

While I was gone I participated in a gardening carnival at My Gardening Patch. Check out the articles and get inspired.

Can you believe we are almost half way through the year? How's your year going? We have had our share of challenges so far, but it is a sunny, beautiful day outside, so I am not going to complain today!!