Cowgar Family Adventures

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year's Eve!

We stopped at K-Mart after Luke got off work to pick up some diapers, and I wanted to get next weeks schedule. My schedule says to see the HR Manager for my hours. Ugh! I work 5pm-9pm on Friday, and the HR Manager gets off at 5pm, so I will more than likely go in a bit early to talk to her. I'm sure I am probably getting laid off since the holidays are over with. I thought I was seasonal help anyways, and I only have 4 hours this week, so it kinda looks like a will be a full-time stay-at-home-Mommy again. At least it updates the resume with some seasonal retail work, to keep me in the loop somewhat with the job world. We could use the money, but I think we will be a lot happier having me here all the time again.

We've worked a bunch the past couple days on switching the bedroom around. We put mud up on the walls and reorganized the furniture. I'm still going through some stuff, so I will post pictures after I have everything done. Tomorrow I hope to start pulling down Christmas decorations, but that will probably mainly happen on Friday.

Luke's buddy is supposed to come over tomorrow and talk photography for a bit, and then we will head up to Luke's parents house for some sauerkraut and pork for the New Year. We don't plan on doing much of anything this evening, besides cleaning up kids and toys I guess.

On a family note, Luke's brother's wife still hasn't had a baby yet! She is 11 days overdue now, and the midwife is concerned with high amniotic fluid levels and heart decelerations that she wants to deliver the baby at a hospital. We will all be heading up to Akron General for the big event, and if she doesn't go into labor before Tuesday, the hospital will induce her Tuesday. After 3 homebirths, this is quite the surprise. Hopefully everything will go smoothly, but going through two hospital births myself, I'm leary that something will go wrong, even if it's not a bad wrong, just something they didn't want done wrong. I'm a worry wort, I can't help it. I think that's it for now, I'll probably post Friday, after I get my next weeks "schedule".

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Debt Snowball and Emergency Fund

As for the budget, I really want to follow Dave Ramsey’s baby steps for the Total Money Makeover. Baby step #1 is a $1000 emergency fund, and baby step #2 is debt snowball. Right now we have $152.12 in there (since the car broke and we spent $300 on springs and lower ball joints and a tire). I also have another $50 to put towards it right now from Christmas. I hate paying a little above minimums and that is it on the credit cards, but we would need to do that for another 2 months to get us to our $1000, depending on what my paychecks look like. I will post the table of our debt snowball, but I’m not sure if we will put that much to our first credit card in line, or if we will do the minimum and put the money towards our E-fund. I have to think about it and talk it over and crunch numbers, so we will see. FYI, we keep our Emergency Fund in a Capital One Money Market account. It gets better rates than a normal savings account through our local bank, but the money is still liquid enough that we can access it instantly if we need the funds. It has a debit card and a checkbook, and we can do online transfers that will take a few days to clear.

We have 5 credit cards in our debt snowball, and I have them listed in the order we hope to pay them off in (higher interest rates first). We are also going to start paying Luke’s dad $200/month starting in January for the land loan he gave us (4 ½ years ago)! We also have $50/month for home improvement, $50/month for medical savings, and hopefully $20/month for thrift (which will be a savings for this coming summer’s yard sales). Then we have our usual bills, mortgages and a car payment. I’d like to try and follow the budget as closely as possible for a month or two before I post every amount of expense we have, but I’m sure I will post the entire budget sometime in 2009, to show our progress and help inspire others. As it stands right now with the current figures, it seems as though it should take us around 2 years to pay off these 5 credit cards.

My plan for now is to post our debt snowball table at the beginning of the month to show our goal, and then at the end of the month, repost it with the actual totals to see if we met our goal…or hopefully exceeded it!

Credit Card Minimum Payment Projected Payment Actual Payment Balance as of 12/31/2008
Holly’s BoA $110.00 $300.00 $- $4,176.20
Luke’s BoA $80.00 $80.00 $- $4,798.05
Luke’s Chase $180.00 $180.00 $- $8,493.16
Luke’s WAMU $65.00 $65.00 $- $1,502.77
Luke’s CC $30.00 $30.00 $- $1,114.74
Total $465.00 $655.00 $- $20,084.92

Time Table Months Years
Minimum 43.19 3.60
Projected 30.66 2.56
Actual 0.00 0.00

Emergency Fund: $152.12/$1000

Home Improvement Project 1: Downstairs Bathroom

Our first major home improvement project will be the bathroom. We have $250 from Christmas to get a jumpstart on the project, and we budget $50 a month for home improvement. Right now we bathe in a bubble, since the shower tile isn't finished, so the first step will be to get new window trim up, so we can finish tiling the tub surround. After that, we will turn our focus on the rest of the bathroom trim (base, crown molding, backsplash). We also need to buy or custom build a medicine cabinet, build a false wall to hide the shower pipes (but keep them easily accessible), and enclose our shelving to make it look more like a built-in cabinet. I just want to shower without plastic trying to cling and attack, so that is the main focus.

We have some minor projects that need attention as well. The girls' bedroom outlet needs rewired so we can re-position our heaters in the house. The kitchen power is out as well; accept for the fridge, freezer, and dishwasher. We have a trouble light from the bathroom hanging above the stove right now, so we can keep in plugged in, and have a little light in there when it gets dark. We have the kitchen blocked off with a blanket now anyways, since it's so cold out, so the kitchen isn't top priority right now. Keeping warm is! We don't need to buy anything to do the wiring, so the budget won't need adjusted. We just need to find the time.

Declutter/Organize Project 1: Living Room and Bedroom

The living room will be my first project room. The sunroom right off of the living room is just way too cold to use in the winter. That is where all of the girls' toys were, and now they are all over the living room, so I must make do until spring hits. My plan is to go through the toys, and get them placed in the toy box and other bags and bins we have. Our end table is cluttered with Dr. Pepper cans and paper, and the fireplace mantel is covered with miscellaneous clutter. I will give myself until the weekend after New Year's Day to get it cleaned, since we will be packing up the Christmas stuff the day after New Year's, so that will free up some space in the living room as well.

Along with the living room, I may sporadically start organizing the bedroom as well. Right now it is a catchall, and a disaster from hoarding presents for months. Eventually the room will be painted (hopefully this summer), so the walls are mostly bare, and need some drywall mud applied. The door behind the crib will get taken out this summer too, as it goes to the foyer, and isn't needed in the bedroom. I bought a couple containers to help organize the bedroom. I have crafty/scrap booking supplies, and a bunch of school supplies for the girls, so this room will start being transformed as well once I start with the living room. I am hoping to have the bedroom completed by January 10th, so the living room will be done by then and I can focus primarily on the bedroom.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas...again and again and again.

Well I missed work this week because of dry heaving and throwing up a lot. I couldn’t eat much, so I got dizzy really easily. Monday I worked 2 ½ hours and management sent me home because I looked like I was dying. I called off Tuesday and Wednesday, because the dry heaving just wasn’t letting up. I even dry heaved a few times Christmas Day, but I’ve been okay now, just feeling a little weak.

The girls had a great time with the holidays. Christmas Eve we went to my Dad’s and they opened gifts. Lilly doesn’t care about opening them, but Lexi loved to open hers and Lilly’s. They got a lot of play food from my Dad and their Nana and Papaw (on Sunday) for their kitchen sets.

Christmas Day we went to Luke’s brother’s house (they were supposed to have that new baby by now, so it was more convenient for them). We got some nice organization bags for toys, an art set, and some other toys from everyone.

On Boxing Day we went to my Mom’s place. She made a turkey and the girls got some socks, gloves, and an outfit. Her and her boyfriend also got them a little wooden table with chairs (very country-ish). Then we came home to start organizing toys in the living room.

Today I worked 11am-3pm. No one said anything to me about missing a few days. I went about my normal business and helped condense batter stack outs, since all the Christmas shelving was being torn down to make way for patio furniture. For now I think I will stick with the job. My schedule next week only consists of one night, for a total of 4 hours, so that’s not too bad…lol. Cutting hours is big after Christmas, so I probably won’t be working too much the next couple months. I changed by availability so I will not be working Sundays, Mondays, or Tuesdays. That gives Luke some consistent days off to schedule picture shoots if need be.

Below are a few shots from our various Christmas celebrations this week.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The weekend before Christmas and I'm sick

Well I’ve decided to hold off on any large projects until after the holidays. There are just so many places we have to go this week. The plan is my dad’s house on Christmas Eve, before I have to go to work (because retail stinks and I work on Christmas Eve), then Christmas Day we will spend at Luke’s brother’s house with the Cowgar side of the family, then the day after Christmas we will go down to Wilmot and do Christmas with my mom.

This past weekend was quite busy. I’ve been feeling sick for the past few days, and spent Saturday morning dry heaving for nearly 2 hours. I was supposed to work 7am-12pm, and that just didn’t happen. Sunday morning I felt sick as well, and the same goes for this morning. On top of that my grandparents came up from West Virginia Saturday and spent the late afternoon and evening here with the girls before heading up to my uncle’s house. Sunday we had our niece Samantha’s birthday party, and left there early to make it to my uncle’s for Christmas on my mom’s side of the family. Lexi has been feeling a bit sick lately, and Lilly missed her nap Sunday since we were out, so they were absolutely terrible half the day. Lexi seems to be having attachment issues since I’ve gone back to work. She constantly needs me, and can’t seem to do anything herself. On top of that, she has been having horrible whining episodes that no kind of consequence seems to fix. I honestly don’t think that this gig with K-Mart is going to last very long. We are having these issues with Lexi, and I’ve been there for a month and a half and missed 3 days. Two days I was really sick, and the other one, the strut spring broke on the car and flattened our driver side tire. On top of that, we are waiting for Luke’s brother’s wife to have their fourth baby. She was due on Saturday, and the baby still hasn’t come yet. I’ve already written a note to HR that I will be calling off that day if I am scheduled to work. That should be the last day I would miss, unless some unforeseen disaster happens (like the car).

The weather has been freezing the past two days. The wind has been blowing, keeping the temperature with wind chill at below zero! Needless to say, the electric heaters in the house aren’t keeping the house warm anymore. Old house equals drafty, and this wind is sucking our heat away. This makes it hard to do anything in the house except sit here cuddled up and shivering. Good new is that it is supposed to warm up. No snow for Christmas, but at that this point I don’t care.

I think after the holidays are over, I will keep myself in line by maybe posting a picture of one of the rooms in the house. That room will be my project room, for me to reorganize and declutter. I’m not sure of a timeline for each room. I guess it depends on my schedule with work and with babysitting. I’ll figure it out. I also will post a picture of a home improvement picture, and keep the blog updated on our progress. We only have $50 each month set aside to go towards home improvement, so projects will take a bit longer to complete, but we will get there.

I am also going to keep myself in check with a monthly debt snowball. I want to find a format that I will post with the stats of what we hope to do that month, and then show how much we were able to put towards the snowball. We will have a set amount from just Luke’s income, but extras from babysitting and K-Mart will hopefully be thrown into that snowball as well. I think I will maybe work on the debt snowball chart, and post that later, maybe with a couple pictures from the weekend.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Welcome to our Family

So I decided to start a life blog for the New Year, to keep my family in check with the goals we are working towards. It also gives me a place to vent, and a place to hold myself accountable. So, lets get started with some background.

The Cowgar family consists of my husband Luke, myself (Holly), and our two daughters Alexis (2) and Lillian (1). We also have our dog Athena, our cat Socks, and some miscellaneous fish. We live in the very liberal artsy-fartsy type town of Wooster, Ohio.
Our goals and how we are achieving them are as follows:

1. Live as eco-friendly as possible.
Our town has blue trash bag recycling, so we put all recyclables in a blue trash bag and take it to the curb every week. There is also a yearly hazardous waste recycling in our county, so we save electronics, batteries (hoping to go rechargeable sometime soon), chemicals, and tires. We were composting our organic scraps, but since it’s really cold out now, we have really been slacking on that. We use CFL bulbs in most areas of the home, and are slowly making the transition complete (except Luke’s office, because he is a pain). We have bunches of cloth rags to use and reuse. We clean a lot of things with baking soda and/or vinegar. We make our own laundry detergent out of washing soda, Fels Naptha soap bars, and Borax powder. We don’t use dryer sheets, and in the nice weather, we hang out our clothes to dry. We do use some hand-me-down and thrift store clothes, as well as some new, (but new is mostly from other people or very much clearanced).

2. Eat as healthy as possible.
We buy cage free/free range eggs. We just purchased locally raised beef and pork (From SIL’s father and my Uncle). I plan to have a more productive and bigger garden than I had this past year. We try to eat more fruits and veggies. We try to stay away from high fructose corn syrup, MSG, red dye #40, yellow dye #5 (well most dyes in general), sucralose (and other refined sugars), and anything else we find out is really yucky for you. We also try not to eat out much, although Starbucks and Arby’s tend to be our weaknesses.

3. Get out of debt and be financially responsible.
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 2 years, and just recently picked up a part-time gig at the local K-Mart on nights and weekends. Not because I needed out of the house, but out of necessity to our current budget. Luke makes plenty to live by, if we didn’t have the debt we have. We got off to a rough start after buying a house, needing repairs done to it, having high deductibles and lousy insurance while having 2 kids. To top it all off, we were set to be consumer debt free by the end of 2008, but we suffered a miscarriage in May 2008. On top of that my beater car of 7 years had a structural break on the frame, so in about 2 months time, we racked up about $12,000 in debt, both consumer and car. We just lost control and ate out so much. We were devastated and didn’t grasp hold of the situation. We also had over $800 in medical expenses, since everything is out of pocket until we reach our high deductible, so needless to say, we need money…ASAP! On top of about $20,000 in consumer debt, we have about $5,500 for the car, and around $10,500 to Luke’s dad, because he was kind enough to loan us the down payment on our land we purchased before we bought this house. Then of course there is the land mortgage, which is around $15,000, and of course the house, but I don’t care about the house, because hopefully one day (sooner than later) we will sell it, but we do have some unfinished projects that need done. So, to combat the debt, we have a detailed excel spreadsheet for our budget, and we are snowballing our debt, curbing our eating out, lowering our grocery bill, cutting out some unnecessary expenses, selling on E-bay and Craigslist, and I baby-sit my friend’s daughter, so hopefully we will make some quick progress.

4. Starting up business ventures.
Luke has expressed interest in starting up a photography business. With the equipment we already have, we should be able to do it without needing to tie up any more money into it. He has 2 cameras, numerous lenses, photo editing software, and a lighting kit. He is still in the practicing mode right now, and we have a blog set up The money is in portrait and event photography, but he does enjoy nature photography more, and we hope to create a website soon that will feature some of his nature shots available as prints to buy. On another side, I completely dislike working out of the home right now. I worked for 7 months after Lexi was born, and it was the toughest months of my life. I missed so many family activities, my first Mother’s Day…just everything. I’ve been working at K-Mart now for a month and a half, and not a day goes by that I don’t cry because I have to leave the kids and work there. It’s taking a toll on life in general right now, and I think we would all be much happier if I was back at home, even if it meant paying off debt a lot slower. I think it would be fun to have a small home-based business, so there would be no need to leave the home, and we would have the freedom we had when I didn’t work. In the 6 years we’ve been together, I have talked about it off and on, so we purchased a web domain that we could use not only for Luke’s nature prints, but use for other products as well. Primarily, it would be the crunchy hippie stuff, like candles, soaps, and homemade trinkets of sorts. We need money and time to invest in setting it up, so right now it’s just a brainteaser, but one day it may happen.

5. Start the path towards home schooling our kids.
The girls’ cousins on the Cowgar side are home schooled, and that has been an influence on Luke and I considering home schooling. I love the idea of no set wake-up times, field trips wherever-whenever, and the ability to go into detail on things the kids find interesting, instead of them skimming over it in a public school setting. It gives Luke and I the opportunity to give so much more to the children education wise, that I know they wouldn’t receive at a public school. I want them to be able to learn things for real life applications, and not focus so much on mumbo jumbo that they may never use again. Luke and I are both products of a public school system, and not a day goes by that we wish we had learned something useful there. I have a few tubs of miscellaneous school books, teaching aides, and crafty supplies. I had every intentions of starting something up this fall, but I haven’t been able to manage the house, the kids, and this new job very well, so it just hasn’t happened.

6. Start living with less.
One look at our house, and you can sum it up with one word; CLUTTER! We have too much stuff, and not enough room. We hold on to things we will never use, or feel bad about letting go, and enough is enough. Luke and I talked recently about how cool it would be to get debt free and buy and RV, and then just live in it for a while and travel the country, since his job would allow him that freedom. Well we wouldn’t fit in an RV with all the stuff we have shoved in this house, so it’s time for a change. I have boxes piled in the foyer for a yard sale next year, and bigger items we have put up on E-Bay or Craigslist to sell. We cleaned the basement recently to organize it better, and we had boxes that had sat down there since we moved in…back in 2004! Obviously we have more than we need, so I am slowly downsizing and reorganizing the house. Hopefully this blog will keep me in check, and I can put some before and after pictures to help keep myself motivated to the task.

7. Live an adventurous life.
As stated above, Luke and I have talked about the RV experience once we are debt free, before building a house on the land. That being a few years down the line anyways, we need to make changes now to our life. We are hoping to be a lot more active outdoors, taking more hikes, attending more functions and classes at the surrounding park systems, and showing the girls appreciation for nature. It will also help out Luke with many opportunities for nature photography throughout the year. We are saving our tax return for a trip to Florida sometime during 2009, so we can see a shuttle launch before the current shuttles are retired for good. We plan to spend some days at the beach, and drive home, hopefully stopping in North Carolina at the Emerald mines, and making our way up to Washington D.C. before heading back home. I’ve never seen any of those places, and it would be a great family adventure for the girls.

To sum everything up, I am keeping this blog to keep me in check with all of these goals. I am hoping by putting everything on the table, out in the open, that it will keep me motivated and hold me accountable, so we can achieve these goals more easily. I guess it will also give the extended family an insight to our everyday life, and a journal the girls can look back on later in life. So sit back, hold on tight, and enjoy the ride…hopefully!