Monday, January 31, 2011

Having a Sleep Over at Home

Owen was with Jason Friday night and Micah was sleeping over at his cousin's, so Noah, Jamie and I decided to have a big sleep over in the living room. We put down a bunch of blankets under each boy to make the hardwood floor a little less hard and then folded down the couch for mom. She's a little too old for sleeping on the floor :P

Before he fell asleep, Jamie came up onto the couch, where he proceeded to try and push me off the entire night. It was a great time with my middle two, who are probably the two that get the least attention from mama.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Remember when I said things weren't cheap here?

A friend of mine did a comparison shop of grocery prices in the USA and Canada with basic items that most people buy.

It's really unbelievable how much more Canadians pay for their groceries and Im even willing to bet that the prices are even higher in my province. I know at least that milk costs double here as it does in Ontario.

Seriously, go check it out! Your mind will be blown!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Avoiding Wasteful Spending

One day a few weeks ago, I received all of these coupon books in the mail. Sure, those coupons could save me a few dollars if we were to eat out but if I didn't have the coupons, I probably wouldn't go there anyway. It seems like having coupons for 'buy one get one free meals' or whatever else, makes me WANT to buy whatever it is. Like my mind thinks it will be such a good deal and I'd be wasting it if I let the coupon expire. Plus nothing in those restaurants is healthy.
So, when those things come in the mail, unless it's something that Im planning to spend my money on anyway, they go right in the recycling.
What are some ways that you avoid wasteful spending?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

sickness, trip planning, budget issues

....and I was doing so good at posting nearly every day.

Oh Well

That nasty bug stayed with me for an extra week after everyone else was feeling better. I'd wake up feeling horrible and through out the day, it would get tolerable, to the point that by dinner time I was fine. At least it's gone now.


I got a call from my boss a couple weeks ago asking if I could be ready to be backup for a conference in Portugal in February. I didn't have a passport but my work was willing to cover the cost, so I thought, why not? Well, after about a week of being not sure, it turns out that I AM going:

How cool is that?
Our project's Lead Researcher will also be there so I have to attend her presentation and then Ill be speaking, along with my boss, at the session following. Otherwise, I don't know how much I'll need to attend, but I am so excited to see a little Europe in the process!
Thankfully, I have some wonderful people around me that are going to take over the childcare while Im gone. It'll be about 5.5 days that Ill be away, including travel and for a single mom, that could be really difficult to pull off. Instead, I have four people taking various shifts to make sure the kids are well looked-after. Without them, I would never be able to take advantage of such an opportunity.
But that brings up some difficult issues regarding my budget. I've not done nearly as well this month as I would have liked so I was hoping to make up for it in February. Not gonna happen. My trip is covered in that I don't have to worry about flights or hotels, and I get a daily allowance for transportation/food. What's missing from that? Childcare. Two of the four people who will be looking after the kids will need to be paid, and well. There are two full days and nights of all four children, and two full days and nights of two children. I have no idea what is reasonable for each person, but it isn't going to be cheap. Add to that, I'll be missing out on three days of babysitting money and I don't have much of a chance to save anything in February.
One way Im trying to reduce expenses is to think of easy, cheap meals to leave for whoever is looking after the boys at dinner time each night. My brother isn't much of a cook and so I know he'll most likely open a box of kraft dinner or order something. My cousin is more of a baker, but when she cooks it involves more expensive items, as she doesn't have any children. Id appreciate any suggestions of easy, cheap meals that wont be a chore and that my kids will eat! Now if that isn't a tall order....
I think Ill leave a little money for pizza one night and thaw out a chicken in the fridge for another. I've taught my brother how to roast a chicken and it's one of the few things all the kids will eat. I just have to find one on sale between now and then. It's funny; when it's just me to menu plan, grocery shop and cook, I don't worry as much. But knowing that someone else is going to have to do it, Im scared that I wont have enough food in the house and they'll all starve!
There's also the worry of school. Do I keep them out during the 3 school days Ill be gone or do I try to navigate homework, lunches and pick-up/drop off times with a babysitter? My cousin will most likely have them during those school days and she has picked them up for me before, so I know she could pull it off, but it's a stress Im not sure I want to deal with. If they stay home, that's more work for the babysitter. If they go to school, Ill have to send in a note to their teachers explaining why homework isn't getting done, set up hot lunches with their teachers before I leave and leave detailed instructions about drop off in the morning. Ack, I so don't know what to do!
Anyway, that's what's going on here. We're getting through the cold winter and Owen has decided to potty train, but that's a post for another day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


It was a tough weekend. I couldn't get out the the grocery store until the boys left Saturday evening at 5, and then my brother asked if I'd wait until the following morning so that he could go with me. Mistake. I woke up at 5am with horrible stomach pains that lasted for about 36 hours. I could barely move. This was the worst sickness ever to hit me.

Somehow the kids, with the exception of Noah, all got over it within a couple of hours. Their dad told me that Saturday night they had each woken up throwing up and so at 7:30am, Micah called to say they were coming home. This, might I remind you was only a couple hours after it hit me. I was not in the proper shape to look after children, but what could I do? So they came home and they were FINE! It was much better that way because they were able to help each other with getting drinks and snacks through out the day. Jason kept Owen (who also woke up Sunday throwing up) until late Sunday night and he was sleeping when Jason carried him in. That was a life saver. Jason also stopped by the convenience store and grabbed a couple of things to keep us going around here. If not for his help in keeping Owen and picking up those few groceries, I don't know what I would have done.

Monday, my SIL called and said she wasn't bringing the boys over because she was sick. That was great because it allowed me a couple extra hours in bed, which was the only place I still felt human. I drove my brother to school and picked him up later, then went to the grocery store. By the time I got home, I was in tears, my stomach pains were so bad. That's when I commented on facebook that it was worse than labor. It had been going on for so long, that I was just exhausted.

In the two days that I was sick I was able to eat an apple, two pieces of toast and some chips that Micah brought me. The apple was on Sunday, the other things were Monday. I think getting some food into me helped, but I know I wouldn't have been able to keep anything else in. Horrible, horrible. Even liquids were a challenge. Over the two days I drank two glasses of watered down ginger ale. That's all the fluids I I know Im definitely dehydrated.

Today Micah and Noah are home from school and my nephews are here, both of whom are sick themselves. Im still queasy but not like I was.

Just gotta keep going.....

Friday, January 7, 2011


Noah was throwing up all last night. NOT FUN!

My nephews showed up this morning with coughs and sniffles

Micah is still in bed (it's nearly 11) complaining of being really tired and having a headache

Owen is covered in snot. I seriously just can't keep up with it.

James and I are outnumbered and Im just praying that we get through the next couple of days without coming down with something ourselves. At least they're all at their dads' this weekend so I can either a) clean the house and get some groceries in preparation for being sick or b) hunker down in bed with a couple of novels and a bottle of Gatorade. We'll see.


Yesterday I stopped to get gas before dropping my brother off at his school. I got home about an hour later and realised that I didn't have my wallet. Without even having to think about it, I knew I had left it on top of the garbage bin at the gas station. I remembered putting it there and thinking to myself that I had to get it before getting back in the van. Thankfully it was exactly where I had left it with everything still inside. Amazing!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Birthday Party Planning

Im enjoying this wonderful hiatus from planning yet another birthday party. My children all have birthdays from April-November, leaving 5 wonderful months (with the exception of Christmas) where I don't have to PLAN for anything big.

Noah's will be coming up next and although Im thinking about his birthday, Im not actually planning it, yet.

He's requested a candy land theme where the guests can feel like they're really playing the game. I had thought about doing the same thing for Jamie's 4th birthday but then decided against it due to the huge amount of work. Since Noah is turning 7 and will have actual friends from school to invite, I thought this might be the right birthday for it.

I stumbled upon this birthday party planning page and although it's not quite detailed enough for this party, it could work well for future ideas.

So far, all I've got worked out is:

  1. that it should be held somewhere big like a local hall or something
  2. I could use cardboard and paint giant squares to make a path
  3. Id like to give out a candy land game to each child instead of a loot bag and so I've started to collect coupons from cereal boxes for $5 off each game. I know I can find candy land for around $10 so if I can get enough coupons, I think it would be reasonable.

Ive started to collect websites and pictures of other candy themed parties as well. I don't want ot get too heavy into the specifics of it just yet, but it does seem like a huge endeavor and so I should probably start in the next month or so.

What about you? Do you plan big parties or prefer more intimate ones? Or even better, do you have any ideas I could use?

Free Day

So today went well, food wise. I had made an extra egg salad sandwich yesterday for Micah to bring to school for lunch today but then realised this morning that he had both ice cream for snack and pizza for lunch (the school offers pizza every other week and ice cream one morning each week). Instead of having to count out my change for the $3.00 to cover both items, I found an envelope already written out for ice cream, with Micah's name on it and money in it from last term. I guess there was a day he missed? Anyway, so free snack today for him and only $1.50 for his lunch.

Then my nephews showed up with Koolaid Jammers for themselves and my littles, so they had them this morning with their snack, stretching my juice an extra day. For lunch we had the last of the homemade mac and cheese, but the kids weren't too fussy on it. They mostly filled themselves on bread, but that's about normal for the four and under set. If we had any peanut butter left, Im sure they would have slathered that on!

My ex mother in law called the other night and I totally forgot until this afternoon that she was taking the boys today. Their cousin is visiting from another province and since his birthday is coming up, Grandma decided to have a little party with all the cousins. They'll be returning after supper, sometime. Which just means that I don't have to make supper and instead Owen just ate a cheese and mustard sandwich (he insisted!)and I had that egg salad one from yesterday.

I haven't added up the receipts yet, but tomorrow will mark a week into this challenge and I've spent no where near my limit. I AM trying to build a stockpile though and given the sales that will be in place starting Friday, Im sure Ill have no problem spending the money. At the end of these 6 weeks, I plan to have used up the few things that remained in my deep freeze and pantry and have a whole new stockpile to allow continued frugality in my shopping.

Breaking Down my Income

So I've mentioned that what I classify as income includes my Canada Child Tax Benefit/Childcare Allowance (CCTB), child support and WAHM income. Total they equal $2675:

$871 income

$400 child support

1404 CCTB

If you've been reading this last week then you know that I have a short fall every month, with this money alone. So in comes my money making endeavors:

$350/month renting out a bedroom

$800/month babysitting

These are the things that I currently do to boost my income by up to $1150/month. I say "up to" because babysitting can change depending on how many working days are in the month, holidays and days off for my SIL.

If I was taking in kids other than my nephews, I'd charge more than the $40/day that I receive now, but seeing as how my SIL watched Owen for me last year for the same rate of pay while I worked, Im good with this amount. I work from home, as the children allow. Adding in two more children similar in age to my littles, hasn't seemed to disrupt things too much. I can bring them with me to pick up the biggs from school and they have lots of things to play with here that are age appropriate. When I work on school-type things with Jamie, I include the other two as well.

We live in a four bedroom house and to some people that would mean that we either do not have enough bedrooms or that we have just the right amount. With the set-up of this house though, there's three bedrooms on the top floor and one on the bottom. It's a four-level, side-split so there's really only a floor and a half between them, but it seems like a lot. Micah is only 9 and Im not yet ready for him to be so far away from me. Because of this, Micah and Noah share a room and the littles share a room, leaving the basement bedroom open for my university student brother.

The only other rooms on the same floor as his bedroom are a large unfinished storage area and the laundry room. There's a utility sink in there, shelves and a second fridge. When he moved in we agreed that he would use the second fridge and shelves as a place to store his food, though he cooks upstairs. There's also a bathroom on the next floor up and that's the main one he uses. The rest of us mostly stick to the upstairs one, unless the kids are in the rec room. His use of electricity is about the only thing that costs me money from his $350/month and for that reason it is well worth it to have him here.

So that's it. Two simple changes that I've worked into my circumstances allow for an extra $13800, minus expenses. Even at a conservative $10000/year, it's totally worth it. I plan to add even more this year, so watch for those posts in the coming months.

What do you do to make extra cash each month?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

First Struggle

So a few minutes ago, while contemplating dinner and simultaneously looking at my higher than expected bank balance, I wanted to cave and order a pizza. It lasted only seconds before I caught myself and realised what that would mean to our new budget. Instead there's a chicken roasting in the oven and we're getting through another day without spending.

$11 000 would mean a lot of pizza, but combined with other things I hope to reduce in our budget, it shouldn't take long to get to that number. If I ordered pizza once each week for the year and only ordered one of the store's deals, I'd be looking at somewhere in the $15-1600 range. For Pizza! What a simple way to reach 1/7 of my goal! (not that I do order Pizza once a week...ahem).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thoughts in the Night

I trace the line of his shoulder and gently stroke his back. He stirs and rolls away, but I don’t mind. His rhythmic breathing and beautiful stillness entice me and I can’t help but smile in the dark. I draw him close again, knowing all too well that the years will separate us. I’d shared this moment with each of my babies and in time, they all moved on. Preferring instead, to sleep alone in their beds rather than snuggled up with mama. I kiss his hands, his arm, his cheek. This time he moves closer, still young enough to treasure such things. We lay there, mama and babe, in the beautiful stillness of the night and I cherish this moment for everything it is.

Breaking Down my Budget

Because I live in Canada and because Im considered low income, I automatically receive both the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) and the Childcare Allowance (which I group with my CCTB). Together they total $1400/month. This is huge for me, because I have no partner to contribute to our household expenses. When coupled with my WAHM income and child support, I have $2675/month to work with. I actually have considerably more due to some of my other money-making endeavors, but Ill get to them with another post.

So I sat down a couple days ago and looked at what I expected to spend each month for the next couple of months. I haven't cut spending for anything other than groceries (due to the two pantry challenges) and gas. Ill be looking at all of the other categories through out this year to see where I can cut. For this reason my numbers will probably seem really high to most of you. But remember, I live in Canada. On an island. Things ain't cheap!

Rent 1400
Renter's Insurance 26
Vehicle Insurance 317
Power 250
Aliant 150 (Digital Cable, Boxes, Internet and home phone)
Food/Household 300
Gas 120
Kids' Allowances 67
School 40 (pizza and ice cream days, book orders, field trips)
Birthdays/Holidays 100
Giving 88 (church, compassion international, mercy house)
Micah's Cell 22
My spending 25
Bank Fees 10
Total 2915

There are some obvious holes in this budget, I know. For one, I haven't provided for any maintenance on the van, but I've put in $100 for birthdays and holidays. Like I said, this will need some rearranging. To be honest though, I did spend $1200 on Christmas this year and if I added all of the other holidays, plus birthdays for my four guys and family/friends parties that we might attend, it's more like double that amount.

Some of you may have noticed that the total of these expenses is more than my income of $2675/month. And that's where my other money making endeavors come into play. But Ill explain those tomorrow. One of the things Id like to do this year is to reduce my expenses to $2675, so that I can totally support us by regular, dependable income alone. That would mean finding $240, which Im not sure is totally possible.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Two Days In

So we're at the end of the second day of both my savings challenge and my pantry challenge (of which I just committed to a second, similar one). So far, I haven't spent a penny. But that's not really all that hard now is it?

Yesterday was Jason's birthday and Micah had asked last week if we could have a party for him. Neither Jason nor I felt comfortable with that idea and so we decided that he'd just come over for dinner, instead. Thankfully, I had a pot roast in the deep freeze and a little wine from Christmas in the fridge, because that's one of his favorite meals. I didn't want to spend any extra money, so that worked out really well. I had thought about making him a cake, before he came over but I didn't think I had any butter or margarine for the icing. It wasn't until about an hour before dinner that I realized there was a stick in the back of the fridge! Oh well. The kids and I made a gingerbread house kit the day before and so we just served that instead. Jason didn't mind and he had the honor of breaking it into little pieces for the boys.

Today we had a lazy day and all just ate what we felt like for breakfast and lunch. Mostly it was yogurt, cereal, toast or soup. Then for supper, since Jason decided to keep Owen for an extra night, I just made grilled cheese sandwiches and a can of vegetable soup. We made it fun by playing Zooreka while we ate.

Tomorrow I plan to serve homemade macaroni and cheese with broccoli, potatoes and carrots (left over from yesterday). I may or may not get around to making rolls in my bread maker, but those could be included as well. We'll have this same meal again on Tuesday and on Wednesday I plan to make what my boys like to call "cheese eggs." Ill have to pick up some eggs for that though because there's only two left after all of my Christmas baking. Otherwise, the only other spending I should be doing this week is a tank of gas in the van and a movie ticket tonight with my girlfriends.

All together, not a bad start to a new adventure.