Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two things that I have started that I LOVE!

I already sent an e-mail out to family, but figured, I could get on a soap box and brag about the co-op that I have participated in.

It is a co-op where you donate $15 and get a basket of fruits and vegetables. They work to get local growers. You make your donation on Monday night (in Utah it's around 8:00 PM). You sign up for a pick-up time and location. On Saturday you pick up your produce at the determined time and location.

They are in the following states - AZ, CO, UT, WA, WY, NV, ID and TX.

I have paired up with two neighbors. I do the order and we switch off the pick up.

This is why I like it
1) Great quality - I've never had better corn on the cob
2) Great price - you get about 15 to 20 pounds of produce for $15
3) Convenience - it takes a little planning, but for the past few weeks my fridge has been STOCKED and I feel like I haven't been going to costco or the grocery store as much. (therefor saving MORE money because there is less chances for me to buy the latest promotional item!)

You don't choose what you get, but there is quite a variety, so if you don't like something (brussels sprouts), don't worry, you won't be eating them for every meal!

Check it out!

2. - IT's FREE!

So, I've always struggled with managing finances, budgeting, and getting a CLEAR picture of where we are at. I would log into one checking account, get the balance, type that into excel, next account, excel, and so on .. then I'd try and figure out how much I had left after our regular spending each month .. This is just your basic checkbook drill to make sure you will be in the clear when that big check or mortgage hits the checking account.

Budgeting, don't get me started. I've started so many, and failed so many times. "We will spend only $400 on groceries, $50 on gas .. etc .. and look how much money we will SAVE!" The bad thing is that the budget is broken before I can hit 'SAVE' to my dumb excel spreadsheet. It was NOT realistic. Where is my fountain diet coke fund? What about home improvement .. ? What about going to DI .. on occasion.

Finances ... don't EVEN get me started. It would take me FOREVER, to figure out our NET WORTH ( student loans, mortgage, 401k, assets, savings, etc). I would literally spend hours trying to figure out my sign-on account at the various financial institutions, plug the numbers into excel .. have a small grasp of where we are and our goals, but knowing that this little 'yearly family statement' will be obsolete in one month.

Anywho, I just was curious about an old site I had joined (quicken-online). However, has taken over the current quicken-online accounts. This personal finance tool is AMAZING!! and it's free!

You aggregate your bank accounts in one spot (no need to log-in more than once).

**Security tip**
  1. Use a VERY strong password for your account as it is an aggregation of your personal finances .. gold mine for someone attempting to perform Identity theft. Strong password is *more than 8 characters, Upper and lower case, numbers and Sp3ci@l characters. Use a passphrase to help out ... substitute a $ for 's' or a @ for 'a'. '$@vingM0n3y' - 329,000,000 days to crack. vs. 'SavingMoney' - 0 days to crack.
  2. Use a different password than the old and trusty password as sometimes sites that you frequent do not encrypt user passwords.
  3. DO NOT use the password 'password123' (do I need to explain?)
They auto-assign the spending categories. It takes some tweaking, but it does a LOT of the work for you. With a click of a button I can see how much I have spent at Salt City Burger in the past 3 months. There are a ton of cool trending and pie charts. See below. BTW, the picture I pulled off the Internet. This is not MY spending. That's too embarrassing!

As I mentioned before, you sync ALL of your bank accounts, this includes the bank that holds your mortgage, your investment firm that manages your 401K, credit cards, savings, checking, etc ... You list any assets or liabilities manually for accounts that can't be added (car, home, other loans). Any time you login, you can see where you are at!

Since you have linked ALL of your bank accounts, it loads the payment history of the last 3 months. When you create a budget, you select a category which you want to budget ..ex. Food-groceries .. the web-app will automatically suggest a number which reflects your spending over the last 3 months. AMAZING!

You have set up a realistic budget, you may have some money left over to set aside. They have different tools to help you decide how much you should set aside for a personal finance goal. How much to save for kids tuition? How much to save if we want to retire at 65? How much to save if we want to put in a pool with a tube slide coming from our master bedroom (will really increase our home value!)

Check it out! It's free!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The $40 Rule

So, you may be thinking ... ga'ak! another picture of cupcakes?! What else does this girl do?! ha!

Well, I had to celebrate because I got something that I have wanted for more than 12 years. An air-brush kit! Let me explain. I decorated cakes for a Summer for Krogers when I was in high school (same as Smith's foods). I made some pretty good cakes, but I was always frustrated that I never had the materials to replicate what I did in the store. Namely, the air-brush kit. I haven't see one for less than $150 and it could be qualified as a uni-tasker, so that was too much money to spend on it.

Pete and I have a rule that if we are going to start a new hobby, we need to put a cap of $40. Once we have put some time into the hobby and feel like it is going to 'stick,' we can invest more into it. I can't tell you how many hobbies I've started and dropped. From weaving to scuba diving, I've done it all, just not very well.

So, we went to an estate sale that said in the sale description, "My Uncle was a hoarder." It was amazing! The nephew was yelling about certain items. "Air Brush compressor, New In BOX!" I about ran to it and had him hold it for me. I got it for $25 There was a price tag still on the box for $175 from the hobby lobby. YAY! It didn't have the gun portion, so we made a trip to Harbor Freight hardware, another great store, and I got the gun for $12. I got some of the food coloring for the air brush at Orsen Gygi for $4. So I am still under my $40 budget and I'm excited to see what else I can make.

These were my favorite cakes I made at Krogers with the air-brush set:
Smiley face cake
Watermelon cake
Hamburger cake (my favorite)
Tye - die cake
Dragon cake

There is no END to the possibilities!!

I also want to investigate the potential for face painting with the airbrush and stencils. :-)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer 2010

Summer Update

I haven't been very good at blogging lately. It's been a WHIRLWIND of a Summer. I have the kids in two activities and still feel overwhelmed! I don't know how people do it!

The kids:
Amelia is getting so BIG! She is starting to rock back and forth on her hands and knees. She will probably be crawling within a month. CRAZY! She LOVES big kid food and will have almost nothing to do with bottles. (don't worry, she's getting enough). Lily is talking a lot lately. She doesn't talk in nursery or around other people. She says funny things like, blaming the poopy smell on Rhino. ... or.. she wanted to wear make-up and I said, "maybe when you are older." She said, "I TWO, IT's MINE!" Phillip is my funny little guy. This morning he was bribing me saying, "If you let me, I'll let you come to my Pumpkin Jack Party!"

The kids have had fun riding bikes outside. I was a little naive and rode my bike with Phillip down our street. I didn't realize we had a gradual hill AND Phillip didn't know how to brake. (he had practiced on our driveway which is flat). Luckily one of my neighbors caught him with one hand. We broke out the bike trailer one night. It was a lot of fun! Pete and I are signed up for a Triathlon sprint in August. I'm excited to do it with some type of costume.

I haven't figured out a GREAT swimming option for the kids. I did take them to the Bountiful recreation center once, but it was a little crazy there to take 3 kids by myself. Pete bought one of those inflatable kid pools. It's on our patio, and the kids had fun swimming in it! We'll have to jump in once it gets really hot.

Wirthlin Reunion:
We had a fun reunion over the 4th of July for my Parents 50th anniversary. It was a LOT of fun. Was it 104 people there? All immediate family and grandkids. I sometimes take it for granted what my parents were able to do with all of us kids. It is quite the accomplishment.

Hotel Bountiful
We got to have Al and her family stay with us. It was a lot of fun and a good excuse to finish our basement bathrooms. The kids had fun watching movies, eating popcorn, and either chasing or being chased by Rhino. Here are some sparkler pictures from our little driveway fireworks show.

I got Lily into a one-week dance camp. She really liked it. She froze for the recital today, but what can I expect .. she's two! It was fun that she got to do the class with her cousin. I think I'll download the princess and the frog song and see if she'll do the dance for me!

Phillip started T-ball this summer. Phillip is one of the younger players on the team. He's getting better and running to get the ball and insists on trying to hit a pitched ball.

Here's the play-by-play ..

Batter UP!!

Safe on First!

playing in the dirt on second ..

... Running to third ...

The third base-man was making sure Phillip was O.K.

Phillip running home.

He does exaggerated arm movements so he can run fast like 'Dash' on the Incredibles.