Friday, June 22, 2012

Week 2

We are not quite to the end of week 2, but I am avoiding thesis work, so I will update now!

We began the week with Father's Day. Although the boys are not being held to the no-spend challenge with their own money, I am encouraging them to be mindful of the experiment as well.  I suggested they reach into themselves and their own talents to create gifts for their dad. They embraced the idea. Magnus is (still working on it) making a comic. Rin wrote an awesome and funny story. Luigi made this and fixed the Dude's knife sheath. We finished watching Colonial House.

I have been concerned about Luigi keeping busy. Well he worked it out himself this week. Paper crafts! He is currently designing a suit of armor (??) out of fiberglass, but the first step is a card stock mock up.

This project has been going on all week and is only at the beginning. He has found something to keep himself busy!

Wednesday was Luigi's birthday. I did not buy him a present since we had given him a tablet a few months back as an early gift. Scaling back my own expectations of what a birthday should be was a big lesson of the day. I am someone who believes every birthday should be phenomenal! And I have failed as a parent when they are less than that. We aren't into the bday party scene, so birthdays often equal trips to cities or camping or movie marathons. Something over the top. This year I realized it didn't have to be that and the kids are fine. So, no extra gifts. He spent the morning working on his papercraft. In the afternoon, we took him to an art program at a library the next town up. The evening festivities included a cookout, strawberry shortcake, and a bonfire. Luigi hung out around the campfire with his dad. They bent copper, made campfire tea and biscuits, and talked about life. The night ended with camping in the backyard.

We spent many quiet days at home this week. It was a nice change. I am working on my thesis and the boys are working on their projects. Trying to keep them off the computer has been challenging. I punished Rin with the hammock in the back yard, a book, and a glass of lemonade. I am a tough mom. We have moved on to the Colonial House series. It was brought to my attention by Magnus, which made me very happy.

We have a beautiful park near our house and we spent some time there, feeding ducks the crusty ends of our bread and visiting the farm animals that live next door to the park.

 Cute pond, perfect for duck feeding

 He finds friends wherever he goes

We took advantage of free library events and park spaces this week. We had planned to take a bike ride, but needed to do stuff round the house. The Dude hung our screen door, worked on our car topper, and made a small water fountain.

Although we are not including food costs in this experiment, we are trying to bring the overall cost down. Tonight, I made tortillas for the first time ever. Although they were tasty, it took an hour and a half to make enough for dinner! That seems over the top to me! Any advice from the audience? I am also looking for a good vegetarian baked bean recipe.

We are wrestling with the trickier parts of our budget. Does Netflix count as a necessity? The Dude bought batteries and glue sticks and some hardware for the door. Does that count? We are voting that Netflix is a necessity. Our library doesn't have really good selection of borrowing times. We only do the streaming plan. The things the Dude bought seem to be necessary and really framework basic building block type items, so we are not including them in the breakdown.

This week:

Iced Coffee (trying to stave off migraine while out, it failed): $2.50
Slice of pizza (The Dude): $1.25

Total: $3.75

And I will leave you with the free hat Luigi made for the little dog today. Paper cup, rubber band, duct tape. Cute dog.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

First week

The boys finished school on Tuesday, so it was the first week of summer for us.
It started with a separation. I helped a friend move to Portland and hung out there for the weekend. The Dude took the boys to the river to take advantage of Free Fishing Weekend. The first day of the weekend was too cold and wet and rainy. The second day, he could only coax the little dude out with him. Too bad, because it was a great day for it.
 The little dude is learning to love fishing
 Glorious Scenery
They were not the only ones out there fishing
The beaver was probably more successful.

They had a lot of fun. My friend picked up the tab for eating in Portland, to thank me for my big strong muscles :) I bought tea and a muffin on Monday, as well as a cookie at the airport. Maybe $7 spent. And it does fall into travel, which is something we are willing to spend money on this summer. The dude picked me and the other helper friend up at the airport, we had a picnic in a park on the way home.

I brought a cold home with me so was pretty miserable the next few days. The Little Dude had a 5th grade celebration *sniff*
*sniff* *sniff*

Now they were officially home from school! Let the summer begin.

They got signed up for summer reading. We have been watching 1940s House, 1900 House, and Frontier House. They are fascinating and fun and give a nice perspective.

So, now to keep the boys entertained. The boys do need to be bored and entertain themselves, but we also supply resources and want to hang out with them.
Since it has been so long since I have blogged, I will update names:

Magnus: Oldest son
Rin: Middle son
Luigi: Youngest son

Magnus and Rin are quite self directed, introverted, and contained. Magnus is 15, Rin is 13. Magnus is happy reading, drawing, walking downtown to the library and used bookstore. He blogs and reads stuff on the computer. He must be coerced into family fun sometimes. Rin can usually be found reading, playing video games, or Minecraft. Luigi is different. He is 11 (in 3 days) likes to read. But he also likes to build, hang out in nature, draw, create. He is more extroverted and needs more direction and companionship. So my challenge is finding things for Luigi to do and finding things interesting enough that they will engage the sullen teen types.

The Dude and Luigo made boffers. It turns out if you give a kid pool noodles, duct tape, and pvc pipes, they can do a lot. Boffers, torches, pocket knives, double ended weapons.
On grocery day, we took all the kids and dropped them off in town to wander around and be kids while we shopped. Then we picked them up and went to the park for an epic boffer battle.

Saturday, we headed to Idaho for more free fishing . Rin is not a fan of fishing, so he and I were going to hike while everyone else fished.

Meanwhile on the trail:

We didn't find a good trail near the fishing area, but we did find butterflies!

Luigi caught a fish
Then we spent some time catching frogs, which was ridiculously fun! I have never caught frogs before. It was a very simple activity which was great.

Our tally for the week:
1 lunch at Arby's: $13. We were running behind for lunch, heading to grocery shopping, and were in between home and shopping. The best solution seemed to be fast food. I set a $2.50 per person budget, so it was not outrageous.

1 State Park entrance fee $5. The trailer event was in a state park, so we had to pay the parking fee. Worth every penny.

1 after work pint of beer- $3.

1 during work lunch- $4. 

Goal- $0. Actual- $25.

Upcoming week-Father's Day and a birthday on a zero dollar budget!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A No Spend Summer

Hello blog readers. Did you miss me?
Once again, that whole school thing got in the way. I was going to write more about my trip, then couldn't figure out how to quickly upload zillions of pics to go with it, then spent many days just organizing those pics, then had to get the house in order for back to school, then went to Portland for a week, and then school started. All those people who told me that the first year is the hardest lied. The second year was so hard. Well, not hard, but insanely busy. But I survived, even got good grades, and have students who like me and turned to me for advice. That is a good feeling. It is now summer and I must write my thesis. Yay.

Since it is summer, I have no funding. None. Current income-$0. I could try to get a job, but I need to write my thesis this summer. I am taking three classes in the fall, which is a heavy load. In the spring, I will be taking one class, studying for my giant qualifying exam (taken next summer) and packing to move. We will be moving back across the state to our "hometown" next July. I place that in quotes because it is not our hometown, we didn't grow up there or anywhere near there. But it is the place that we think of when we think of home. When I take (and pass) my exam, I will be ABD, all but dissertation. I will finish that work over there, and The Dude will get a real grown up job, or will go to graduate school, or both. So, next school year will be packed and now is the time to write.

The Dude has graduated college. Yay! But now we are living in a town that has a shortage of good jobs and an overage of qualified candidates. Therefore, he is at his old fallback-waiting tables. It is good but unsteady income. Overall our loan amount was much less in the spring-Dude had zero loans, since he graduated. I only took out the subsidized loan, and last year I took out both. So, we had quite a bit less money, but will owe less in the end. The Dude didn't have a job for a few months, so that was a hit to our pocketbook as well. The tax return is pretty much spent. I splurged out and bought an iPad, which I still feel good about because it actually keeps all my notes in one place and I am terribly disorganized. I tried to do notes on my computer, but I failed. I like to write in handwriting. The iPad will pay for itself when I have successfully completed my degree. We also had some dental bills and bought the littlest dude his own computer for his birthday. The Dude's student loan repayments have started. Whew. Money is tight right now.

How should we respond?

We are planning to do a no-spend summer! Here are the rules: no spending on anything not necessary. We will be food, shoes (if needed), gas, and pay bills. We also include some family outings as necessary to our family sanity. We will be going to Glacier National Park for a week. We had planned to do a week in Yellowstone, but have decided to scale back. Now we are focusing on how we can get away for free. We live near some really pristine parts of the US, and for the past few years, we have been stocking up on backpacking gear. So, it occurred to me that maybe this year is the year to try out that equipment and do some backpacking. There are forests nearby that don't require a pass, and there is free camping in those forests, so the only cost will be gas. Of course, gas is almost $4 a gallon, so that cost is not insignificant. I have a (free) app on my iPad, Cost2Drive. It is sobering and may help keep some of the trips in check. We are also close to some really nice bike trails, so biking is on the summer list.

As for the rest of it, we simply won't buy it. It will be a summer without garage sales or thrift shops. This will be difficult, because we love both of those things. But the less we spend elsewhere, the less stress we will have about bills, and the more we will have to spend on trips.

So far, we have had some interesting things happening. On Wednesday, we decided we should do this. Friday, June 1st, might as well start then. But we also thought we might as well jump start it on Thursday. Thursday we went grocery shopping. On the way, we saw three super cute chairs in a free pile by an apartment complex. We have the ugliest chairs known to man in our dining room. I have wanted to replace them, but chairs are spendy. 4 of our chairs were ripped up vinyl. 2 of them are vinyl and not great, but not ripped up. We have one other vinyl chair that is cute but had no home. So we brought home the 3 chairs, added the 4th, homeless chair, kept the 2 blue ones, and now have a cute, eclectic mix for nothing.

We did our shopping, nothing extra at all, just what we needed. Then we were heading home and The Dude went past a furniture making shop. They had a TON of good wood out front, for free. The Dude is a pretty accomplished, self taught carpenter with quite a few projects on the list. Now he will not need to buy the wood for them.

Friday we were going to go out on a bike ride.  The littlest dude couldn't find his helmet and so wanted to do out and buy a new one. We found it but it turns out that he is outgrowing it and so he still needs a new one. Well, it just so happened that there was a safety fair this weekend and they were giving out free helmets for kids under 16. We went to it, and our kids are giant and have big heads to match, so there weren't any large enough in stock. However, the woman working there gave us a coupon for a free helmet at the local bike shop. We went over today, got their heads measured and will have free helmets in 2 weeks.

I will post later about the many projects that are happening around our house. But I will give a glimpse at some of the ways we plan to entertain ourselves this summer for no money:

Swimming. We have an annual pass to our community pool. That will come in handy
Picnics in the park
Catching butterflies
Boffering with pool noodle boffers This is kind of a cheat because they aren't no cost. We bought the material in May. But that was before we knew we were no-spend challenging. We got the noodles at the Dollar Tree and the PVC pipe for handles was less than $5, so the total cost is less than $10 for a family full of boffers,
Croquet and bocce on our lawn or at the park
Disc golf.  There is a course nearby
Games. We have lots of un-played board games
Stories by candlelight
Bonfires in the back yard
Blowing bubbles
Baking bread
Picking fruit
Touring the campus
Making movies
Nerf gun wars
Learning outdoor skills
Visiting local free events

In addition to a no spend challenge, we are limiting internet. The boys will not be using the internet during the day and there will be at least one day per week when the internet is turned off completely.

Kids skate free:

Free Milkweed seeds (bring monarchs to your yard):

Kids bowl free. Two games per day, all summer long:

Free Redbox movie rental codes:

Redbox text club: