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Heike and Paul's Blog


A Wonderful Gift

‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. 2010 is going to be hard to beat. How do you top completely cleaning up your finances and eliminating over $20,000 in debt? I keep joking that in 2011 we need to find a contest for personal health and fitness, and in 2012 one for parenting, and then we will be all set!

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Time for TV?

With only one more week until Christmas, there was a flurry of activity at our house this weekend. We still had some shopping to do, and we got the house ready for guests. We converted our family room into a guest bedroom, finished decorating the tree, and got the gifts that need to be sent off ready to go. We also decorated a gingerbread house with Omi (grandma) today. It’s a wonder the kids don’t have chocolate belly aches. 

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Communicating About Money

A couple of months ago, Paul and I spent some time talking about our short term financial goals. There are the usual home improvements and vacations, but Paul’s main wish is to own a ¾ ton truck. This one desire is so strong that it overshadows all other items on our “short-term” list. 

Historically, Paul and I have had very different ideas about the ideal timing and financing of said vehicle purchase. If it were up to Paul, the truck would already be parked in our garage. I, though, would wait until we have the full purchase price saved up. Neither approach makes the other very happy. The most valuable skill we have gained in the past six months is learning to communicate about spending our money – not just HOW to, but to do it at all! Needless to say, the truck has been the subject of numerous conversations.  The answer, of course, is somewhere comfortably in the middle. 

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Snow Much Fun

The snow has brought a whole new set of activities to our house.  Saturday morning Abby was so excited to go outside.  Christopher – not so much.  Paul stayed inside with Chris while Abby and I tackled the winter wonderland.  I pulled her around on the sled.  We fed Marcus, the horse, his breakfast, sledded down three different hills, and started to build a snow-castle before Abby’s hands got too cold.  I have dreaded winter the past few years because our young kids didn’t tolerate the cold for long.  It’s great to see Abby enjoying it so much, and makes me feel better about the upcoming months.  With any luck we’ll get lots of snowy, warm days like this weekend so that we can continue to enjoy the outdoors.

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"Now what do we do?"

"Make an extra mortgage payment?" "Can we do that?" "I think so...let's call the bank."  Six months ago, that conversation would have been unthinkable in our house. It's an actual recap of a conversation Paul and I had recently. We've paid off our credit cards, eliminated our car payment, and are poised to pay off the student loan – after 12 years! In June, when Project Money started, we knew there were changes we could make, but we truly did not dream that we would be able to eliminate all of our debt – except the mortgage – during the competition. Nonetheless, here we are, six months later, and that dream has become a reality.

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Keeping Our Goals and Dreams in Focus

With only a few days to go until Thanksgiving, we’ve got it all planned out. We get together with our family and everybody brings something, so nobody has all of the bills or work. Paul shot two wild turkeys this fall, so we will be bringing one of them, along with the mashed potatoes. This year the festivities will take place at my sister’s house.  Paul is excited to be able to watch football there; our TV watching at home is limited to Netflix DVDs and streamed shows, which severely hampers his football enthusiasm.

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Never Give Up, Never Surrender

It’s so great to find an unexpected deal. We bought store brand dog food at Mounds today and at the checkout were given a $10 gift card! Another great discovery is a brand of discount diapers that are 30% less expensive than the ones we were using before, but still work great. Wish we had found them 4 years ago. Paul’s parents came into town this weekend and brought more coffee as a gift! In addition, Paul and his dad went into New Glarus to watch the Badger game and Vikings game. Lunch and drinks on dad.

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It’s the Day to Day Habits That Get Us into Trouble

Sunday was Abby’s birthday, and I think we managed to pull off a great day for her without breaking the bank. Food and decorations came to about $15.00 and the Play-Doh for party activities and favors came to $15.00. I got everything I could at the dollar store, and made all of the food myself. That’s a far cry from past years, where the food and drink budget alone would have been much higher. This is another great example of planning for special expenses and sticking to a reasonable budget. 

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Halloween is Just the Beginning...

In our family, Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season. From here through January only the strongest survive – by gripping tightly onto their wallets and eating only vegetables every chance we get, to combat the sweets and belt-busting meals that accompany every festivity.

In November alone, our family celebrates 6 birthdays, and December and January hold 4 more. Add to that Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s (also Paul’s 40th birthday this year), and we’ve got some very creative budgeting to do to keep on track with our finances, and with Project Money!

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Strategy vs. Reality

It’s 3:00 am and I’m up after a nighttime bedwetting episode (the kids, not me). As I tucked the wee one back into a warm dry bed, the effects of some of the cost cutting measures we’ve taken became apparent to me. One of these is “saving by attrition” – not replacing worn or broken items. I was rethinking this strategy as I attempted to change bed sheets half-blind. Paul and I both wear contacts, meaning we rely on glasses at night.  Christopher apparently hid mine yesterday, so I’m borrowing Paul’s – a weaker prescription. I’m discovering how annoying the missing ear piece is – a war wound from a previous encounter with the kids. Typing on the computer with these isn’t great, either. 

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