Photo Credit: Jeff Eaton, Creative Commons Images

So, Do I Have Hashimoto’s, or What?

My answer at this time: Beats me!

I’ve had the runaround these past few months from the medical profession. To re-cap, in my post about being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, I discussed being diagnosed with the hypothyroid and autoimmune disease and the treatments I was working through at that time. I detailed the Autoimmune Protocol Plan (AIP) eating that I completed earlier in the year in my post here.

The diagnosis of hypothyroidism was completed by a naturopathic doctor that I was seeing due to being unhappy with my prognosis from my primary and OB at my major medical HMO. The HMO’s prognosis had mostly consisted of “you’ll probably always feel this way” and “there’s not much you can do about it”. I wasn’t ready to settle for that. The insurance plan we had at the time covered alternative care like naturopathic medicine so I sought out a doctor that specialized in women’s hormonal diseases and disorders and saw her for several appointments in 2015.

She, right off the bat, was adamant that I definitely had something more going on that the vague diagnosis of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) that our HMO had given me years ago. She dove into a lengthy medical questionnaire and ran some tests. By the middle of the year, it was determined by lab work that my body was attacking my thyroid in a pattern that revealed an auto-immune disease.

So, at this point I was told that I didn’t just have hypothyroidism, I was told that my body was attacking itself and that I would always have this disease that needed to be managed.

It was my naturopath doctor that recommended the AIP eating plan because it was one of the things that I could control and actually help my own healing. I completed this in January and February of this year. While I did rush food re-introductions per the protocol’s recommendations, I also knew that I didn’t have any of the chronic stomach upset and problems that many auto-immune sufferers have, so I knew that re-introductions would go quite smoothly for me, and I was right. My symptoms have always been more hormonal in nature and are the dull underlying reminder that I always feel off, but haven’t been the type that knock me out and keep me in bed for a week, like someone with say, Celiac’s might experience.

Late last year, I received the startling news that a change in my insurance coverage meant that naturopathic services weren’t covered any longer. I had gone to the naturopathic doctor four times during the time that I wasn’t covered, and hadn’t even known that the visits wouldn’t be covered at the time I had gone to see her. The cash patient price was more than I could afford to continue seeing the naturopathic doctor. Sadly, I’ve had much trouble settling final bills and found that the doctors office’s business practices have been quite poor throughout this time, and decided that even if I could afford her astronomical rate to continue seeing her, that I wasn’t going to.

I decided that since I pay a nice chunk of money out of my paycheck each month for our family to have health insurance, that I would go back to my major medical insurance and demand treatment for the thyroid disorder through them. In the past, I had had trouble with my health organization recognizing the thyroid disorder. They stated that Eastern doctors (naturopathic) and Western medicine doctors (pretty much everyone else) practice medicine quite differently, and that just because an Eastern medicine doctor said I had a thyroid disease, they didn’t necessarily think I did too. But, I now had test results that showed the thyroid antibodies present, and I thought that this was absolute proof that I now had a solid diagnosis of a thyroid disorder and that there was no way that my primary doctor could not recognize that.

In February, I met with a young doctor filling in for my primary, who was on maternity leave. I showed him the lab results, discussed my problems with him, and stated that I wished to now receive treatment from their organization for the issue, so that it would be covered. I explained that I was no longer going to seek out the naturopathic services and that since the lab results PROVED a thyroid disorder, there should be no reason why they should not treat me for it, continue prescribing the thyroid medication and help me manage the disease ongoing.

The doctor listened intently, asked follow up questions, and reviewed the nautopath’s lab results I had brought with me. I told him about the AIP plan and the supplements the naturopath had had me taking. He hadn’t heard of any of the supplements or the AIP plan. He then told me that lab results of my nature aren’t necessarily evident of a thyroid disorder or autoimmune disease.

I was speechless at that point. Here I had been told that I, without a doubt, had Hashimoto’s disease. That I most certainly had hypothyroidism. This guy, who was more or less my age, so possibly very recently out of medical school, was telling me that recent studies on thyroid disorders mean that many patients testing positive for thyroid antibodies don’t necessarily have the disease.

This shocked me. I felt like everything I knew and was working towards on my health at that time was quite possibly for nothing. Was it true that I didn’t have a thyroid disease? I felt so confused.

 

He proceeded to tell me that everything I was describing was indicative of PCOS and that he had reviewed my chart before my appointment and felt that a diagnosis of PCOS was more likely than that of an autoimmune disease. He told me that people with Hashimoto’s disease had thyroid antibody levels in the 800-1000 range or higher. Mine were 258.

I asked him if those people with those antibody levels of 800-1000 were quite sick, and he said yes. I then explained that I was trying to address what I could, head on, before I got to that point.

He then offered to review my chart more thoroughly after my appointment and see if there was anything that was missed in the PCOS diagnosis that he might be able to test for. He ordered labs for my TSH level to be completed that day. I asked him what to do about the thyroid medication that I was nearly out of. He said, based on what we had discussed and depending on what my lab results were after having the blood drawn, that he was not comfortable prescribing further thyroid medication to me. I had about 10 days worth of my current supply left, and then I would be out.

I left his exam room shell shocked and exhausted. I was tired of the fight. The fight that I felt that I shouldn’t have to just accept that I would always feel off, that the symptoms I had were normal and that there wasn’t anything I could do about it. And just when I thought I had found someone to understand and figure out what I was going through, I was back at square one.

I went and had the blood drawn before I left the building. The thyroid results later in the day were in the “normal” range, but I expected this – I had been on thyroid medication by eight months or so by that time. If the dosage was fairly correct, of course my thyroid was in a normal range, because it was being managed. Because the result was normal, he did not prescribe the medication.

The doctor stayed true to his word. He called me about a week later. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time a doctor from that organization had called me after an appointment to follow up, so I thanked him for this. He said he had reviewed the labs, reviewed my chart once more. He said he felt that everything had been done properly in previous years to correctly diagnose what he thought I had: PCOS, and nothing more. Therefore, he explained, this was just a hormonal disorder I would always have. No, there wasn’t medication I could take for it. No, there weren’t supplements that would help. He said he had researched the AIP plan and decided it sounded pretty good, and that I should continue it if I felt like it.

So, since mid-February, I have been off of thyroid medication. I still have low energy levels. I know I have to give myself credit for the busy lifestyle, but I definitely used to have more energy than I do now. For about the past month, I’ve been losing hair as well, quite a bit of hair. I have thick hair, and have always lost some while shampooing or brushing, but the hair loss as of late is quite startling. I got a haircut recently and, although I warned the stylist before she shampooed me, she admitted later that it was an abnormal amount of loss and asked if I’ve ever had my thyroid tested.

“In my experience, most hair problems or changes have to do with a women’s thyroid. We learned that in cosmetology school.”

I quickly changed the subject, not wanting to get into it. The poor girl didn’t need my life story.

So friends, I sit here stumped and confused. The frustration I feel from all of this is disheartening.  I don’t know who to believe as far as a diagnosis, or should I say, lack thereof.

So, right now, I’m coasting. I haven’t been following the AIP Plan as diligently as I should. Once I had reintroduced the foods that were important to me and helped create rounder and more satisfying meals, ones that didn’t leave me feeling deprived, I got sloppy. Between spending time with friends and family, a little traveling and two weddings in these past months, I got in the bad habit of eating whatever looked good at the time again. It sure has been nice to partake in those special occasions, such as when my now four year old son requested spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread and broccoli for his birthday dinner. Three months ago, I would have watched longingly as my husband and son ate it alone, and I ate a salad. But I ate the damn spaghetti. Life is short. But going back to the more diligent AIP plan with my re-introductions would not be a bad thing. And again, it’s sort of the one thing I can control in all of this.

Friends, have you ever had this happen to you? Finally gotten some answers to medical problems, only for another medical professional to disagree? I’m at a loss of what more I should pursue, if anything. Several people have recommended switching medical insurance providers when I’m able to. That maybe it’s just this particular organization who is being less than helpful. That’s something that we as a family might consider, during the open enrollment time offered by my employer.

Photo Credit: Casey Fleser, Creative Commons Images

Simplifying Home Life – Laundry Routine

Years ago, when my husband and I first moved in together, we lived in the 450 square foot middle unit of a triplex. Besides going to work and taking care of our little house, we had few responsibilities at that time – life sure was simpler! Therefore, I used to reserve our laundry for Saturday mornings. I’d wake up, turn on some Food Network, and start laundry and housecleaning. With such a small house, the cleaning certainly didn’t take long. And we even shared the laundry room with the other triplex tenants, and so I couldn’t always get the laundry done as quickly as if we had an in-unit washer/dryer, but it still didn’t take that long.

Fast forward fifteen (!!?? Fifteen!?) years, and until recent months, I was dealing with laundry mountain every Saturday and sometimes carrying into Sunday. NOT how I wanted to spend my weekend.

With our now 4 year old son, and my husband working as a machinist, we have quite a bit of laundry each week. Toddler laundry is still much like infant laundry is – one big load a week, but we also have upgraded him to a full sized bed, with a full load of full sized bedding to be washed to boot.

My husband and I have several loads of darks each week, mostly due to his work as a machinist. His shirt and his heavy duty jeans are dirty each day, as is sometimes a jacket or flannel if he wore that depending on weather. We also have a load of lights and whites, and our bedding as well.

So, several months ago, after being fed up on a Sunday night still dealing with the laundry, I decided to not reserve all of the laundry for the weekends.

Now, I am usually doing a load every other night. We don’t have quite enough laundry to need to do it every night at this time. More often than not, that load being done on a weeknight is either our son’s or our darks. I gather the laundry in our basket from the hamper in the morning, and bring it downstairs once we are all dressed and ready to gather up breakfasts and lunches to go. I throw the clothes in the washer with the laundry pod and fabric softener, and then I use the delay wash setting on our washer, to have it start about the time I get off work.

When I get home at night, the washer is usually finished or on the last leg of its cycle. I flip the clothes over to the dryer while I’m in between the dinner routine, and then I fold and put away sometime during the remainder of the evening.

This routine takes a little more diligence on my part to ensure a load is started so that Laundry Mountain isn’t waiting for me on Saturday, but I’ve been happier since. That’s not to say I never have laundry by the time the weekend rolls around, because I certainly do, even if it’s only bed linens. If you are dealing with Laundry Mountain at your house and are tired of it, maybe start getting in the habit of trying the method of knocking out a few loads during the weeknights. I hope it helps you as it has helped me!

*Toddler tip! As discussed in my previous post of getting toddlers to help around the house, switching laundry loads and even helping to fold the clean clothes is a great way to get your eager toddler to help out 🙂

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Completed Vegetable Garden Plan

I transplanted all of my vegetable seedlings to their permanent home in our garden bed last weekend! This post details how I planned how much space to allocate to each type of plant, the spacing between them, and how they are doing now.

Here in the PNW, we’ve had quite the roller coaster of spring weather lately. The frost is definitely over, but we’ve had everything from gorgeous spring days to 80 degree humid days to grey and pouring rain. Several thunderstorms have taken place this month. So I knew my veggie seedlings were going to get any array of weather and I could only hope that at least some of them do well.

A few people teased me that I went overboard with the seeds and variety of things I wish to plant, and they are probably right. Go big or go home, right?! But here’s my thought process behind it all: I am a beginner level gardener. Most things I’ve tried to grow in the past have died. This is my first time planting everything except for some of the herbs and tomatoes which I’ve grown successfully and not-so-successfully in the past. I am accounting for the fact that not all of these plants will take. If on the off chance they ALL take, well then I’ll have zucchini coming out of my ears, but that is a type of vegetable that’s fairly easy to use for a variety of things and it’s usually easy to give away.

I also wanted to plant things that my family will actually use and enjoy. No sense planting something like Brussels sprouts when we don’t care for them. The idea is that hopefully we have some awesome usable vegetables this coming summer and that can lower our grocery bill, to boot! I also hope to be able to share some of our bounty with friends and family if quantities provide for that.

So the things I’ve planted are things that our family loves and eats often. I’ll admit that with my Hashimoto’s diagnosis and the subsequent AIP plan, we tried a lot of new things that have since become staples in our meal rotations. Some simple, rough chopped carrots roasted in coconut oil make a delicious side dish – sometimes I drizzle honey on them the last few minutes of cooking too! We make a lot of salads from green leaf and spring mix lettuces. We love zucchini, but the organic zucchini’s at our local store are getting pricier and pricier, and the organic zukes are small too, far smaller than their non-organic counterparts. I also planted yellow summer squash, one of my summertime favorites, roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green beans, 6 stalks of corn, and some other cooking staples like onions, broccoli, leeks, beets, and 6 kinds of herbs.

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Herbs are another thing that have seen price hikes in recent years! I love purchasing fresh herbs to go in dishes and I could absolutely live off a caprese salad in summer! But when some “fresh” basil – meaning, some twigs packed in a plastic case – is $2.99 at the grocery store, man – that adds up, friends. So, I planted basil, dill, parsley, oregano, rosemary, and thyme, all flavors that I love cooking with and adding to dishes.

I mentioned in my last post that my husband’s planter box was gigantic – it comes up to waist level when I stand next to it, and it’s interior is 16′ long x 4′ wide. With these easy dimensions, I figured that for the most success, I would plan out how I wanted to plot each type of seed. This also allowed me to plan where to put each plant for the best results – some plants shouldn’t be planted too close to each other, I learned.

The idea was one plant for each square foot, but with my four year old helping, I quickly noticed that the plots were overlapping in some areas and crowded in another. We remedied this, but, I also wasn’t out there with line markers or a ruler to set the plots straight. We simply planted, allowed appropriate space between each type, and went from there. So, my rough sketch of what the garden planting was to be ended up a little different in the end, but I had kept the appropriate plants away from the others that it wasn’t supposed to mingle with.

I found an awesome site, gardeners.com, that allows you to create a free garden planner! So below, I present to you the finished version of our veggie garden, however it’s not to scale:

Veggie Plan

Starting in the back row on the left, we have sunflowers along the trellis, followed my a couple of the corn stalks and then moving into green beans. All of these will grow tall and I figured the support will help.

On the lower left, we have a few plots of onions followed by zucchini, then lettuces, broccoli, garlic, yellow squash, carrots and more corn are in the middle. Moving towards the right are leeks, cherry and then roma tomatoes, beets and then all of the herbs round out the far right.

So far in the past five days they’ve been planted, the seeds have gotten rain, sun, wind, and even a little hail..the corn stayed nice and strong and perky, but the sunflower and green bean seedlings, which had sprouted quite tall when I was growing them indoors, have become droopy..I’m hoping that’s not a sign of their health, and that they will grow tall and strong!

Most everything else is still at the same level as when I planted it, no huge growth spurts yet! Hopefully by the time the nice weather starts sticking around longer (May/June) we’ll have some usable vegetables around these parts!6a958db4-a7e5-48a2-a773-51ad9744b4c0

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Spring Seeds

I’ve had a desire to start a vegetable garden for a long time. When we lived in California, I had tried to plant herbs and citrus plants, yet the hot summer sun scorched them all.

Here in the interesting climate we experience here in the Pacific Northwest, since we get more than two seasons, unlike the Central Valley of California, I figured I would try my hand at it again, expanding to vegetables that we commonly eat in our household.

So, my husband decided to make us a planter box on the side of our house. This isn’t just any planter box. The thing is massive! Go big or go home, right?

We joke that it could fit about 20 bodies. It probably could.

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As spring arrived, we planned for the vegetable garden. Those white pipes are the beginnings of our drip system that he is installing in order to ensure that the vegetables have sufficient water. The trellises on the back are to support beans, corn, and sunflowers.

I began planning what I wanted to plant and had totally prepared to shell out the dough for starter plants. But, a friend told me about these Jiffy Greenhouses in which you can start seeds. She had great success with them, so I decided to give this a try. At an average of about $1.87 a seed packet, I could get a heck of a lot more bang for my buck.

So, I hauled butt to Lowes, picked out my desired veggie seeds, and followed the directions for setting up the seed tray. I had my son help me with this, as I wanted to show him the entire process of where food comes from – from seed trays to plantation to care of the plants and excitement as they grow, and then we finally get pick and eat them.

All in all, we had the seeds all planted within an hour. I may or may not have gone overboard with the seeds. I’m planting a lot of different things, and it’s my first time planting many of these – I’ve only successfully planted tomatoes last year – so I hope that at least most of these take.

The Jiffy kit comes with 6 plastic plant markers. I needed way more than this, so I took wooden sticks that we had leftover from a craft project, broke them in half and wrote labels with a sharpie.

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Some of the seeds sprouted within a couple of days – really quick!

By the fifth morning after planting the seeds, they looked like this:

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Yeah, that white fuzzy stuff is mold. On my green onion seedlings. Sob.

I am taking a chance on those. I removed the white fuzzies carefully with toothpicks, then set the plants outside late in the day, to begin introducing the seeds to sun and air. What I should have done, was given the seeds some time with their protective dome open once they started sprouting. The dome effect truly creates a greenhouse effect – big on humidity, light on air circulation. They probably got too much humidity, and sprouted the mold. Since exposing them slowly to some sun, and leaving the dome of the greenhouse propped open, the mold hasn’t returned.

Right now, my hubby is finishing up the planter box drip system. We’ll need to get some good organic planting soil and then begin transplanting the seeds. They are certainly taking off and I think some of them are ready to transplant now! But again, I’m a newbie at all this.

Watch for a new post soon once we’ve transplanted and the results of our veggies!

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Teaching Toddlers to Work

In our household, in our family, we believe in work.

Nothing has ever really come easy for my husband or I, we both have had to work hard for everything we have. Part of our upbringings included the idea that if we wanted things done, if we wanted to get places….then, as the saying goes, engage!

We decided to raise our son in much the same manner. We wanted him to realize that life isn’t handed to you on a silver platter. We wanted him to know that although mommy and daddy love him and will be there for him and support him through anything, that does not include us doing everything for him. He needs to learn to be self-sufficient. He needs to learn the value of work.

There are many age appropriate tasks that 3-year-olds can do. On a daily basis, our son gets himself dressed, puts his dirty clothes in his hamper, and brings his dishes to the sink. He sometimes helps unload the dishwasher, even if that means his help is placing a clean cup or dish on the counter so that I can lift it into the cabinet. The main thing I have him help me with several times per week is laundry.

I have him help me load the washer, move clothes from the washer to the dryer, and of course, fold and put away laundry. These days, I’m normally running a load of laundry every other day or every third day, depending on how full the load is, in an effort to not have to deal with “laundry mountain” each weekend.  I really try not to run half loads so this does often mean that I’m still running 2-3 loads during a weekend, which means plenty of opportunities for our son to help me with various laundry tasks.

He often protests and says he doesn’t want to help. I let him know that I do need his help, that it’s important that we all work together in our family to get these tasks done. Sometimes, this results in him folding three pairs of socks while I folded the rest of the load. But, I hope that I am instilling in him that helping around the house is not optional, and that his help is valuable.

Recently, at my sister’s bridal shower, my son insisted on helping her open some gifts. She received some towels and kitchen linens as gifts, and my little guy unknowingly impressed several of the female guests by helping his Auntie to fold up those newly opened towels and linens into neat squares!

Most toddlers like the idea of “helping” mommy or daddy with a chore, and so I can only hope that instilling these values into our son early on are setting us all up for success to have him continue helping throughout his developing years.

 

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9 Things We Don’t Pay For (In Order to Payoff Our Debts)

Trekking through a journey to payoff debt takes a lot of things – patience, money, diligence, and also being intentional with what the goal at hand is. It’s not going to be paid off overnight, and so there have to be certain lifestyle decisions made to keep the cash flow going, and to bring in extra cash to put towards the debts, in order to reach that goal faster. Here’s a list of things that our family does not pay for in an effort to minimize our lifestyle and have greater cash flow for this purpose.

 

  1. Water

This might seem like a strange item to place on here, but bottled water adds up! We used to have a water dispenser in our kitchen that held 5-gallon jugs we would have to take to the grocery store or the water store to have filled. Since moving into our current home we have a fridge that dispenses filtered water and so we sold the water dispenser and the jugs. We don’t buy bottled water. We have several good quality reusable water bottles that we take with us. Our son takes a filled water bottle to school everyday and we each take one to work with us. If you live in an area with decent quality water, there shouldn’t be a reason that you cannot drink the tap water that comes into your home. That is water you are already paying for on your water bill.

 

  1. Gym memberships (or any memberships for that matter)

Our family gains exercise in ways other than a structured gym routine. We play together, play outside, go on walks, go to parks, and do workout routines at home. And everything from our local zoo to the children’s museum has a free day once a month or so.

  1. Pricey car insurance

It actually made more sense for us to have a lower liability on our car policies and then take out a separate umbrella policy for additional liability coverage. Our car insurance for two vehicles is now down to under $100 a month and the umbrella policy is about $100 per year.

  1. We eat out less

We used to really think nothing of heading to a restaurant for a meal, but it’s truly a treat now, and we save a lot of money by not going out as often. We budget for restaurants in our envelopes. My recently diagnosed autoimmune disease has also caused a need to eat more whole, real foods, and so I’m taking the time each week to properly meal plan, budget accordingly with store sales and coupons, and cook meals at home from scratch. This also forces me to purposely make extra portions for us to use as lunches at work too.

  1. Cable

While it took my husband awhile to convince me, we finally cut the cord last year. Now, we just pay for internet, and we purchased our own router too so that we don’t have to lease the router from the cable company. We have an Apple TV streaming device, and have signed up for several streaming options so that we have a wide range of things to watch (Game of Thrones, anyone?!). We now only pay about $25 per month in the subscriptions that we like for streaming, and haven’t missed cable a bit. On that same token, we don’t have the TV on as often, because it’s not as easy to just flip it on for some background noise. This has prompted some much better family time and conversation in our household.

  1. Movies

Going to the movie theater is a real treat for us. Not only because we have a three year old son, so getting to a movie while we have a babysitter to watch him isn’t our first priority. But also because we do subscribe to things like Netflix and HBO on our Apple TV and a lot of the popular movies to make it to those platforms eventually. It’s rare that there is a movie we want to see urgently that we cannot wait for it to come out on HBO or Netflix to see it then.

  1. Extended warranties

This is a Dave Ramsey concept also, but we’ve been practicing this long before we’d ever heard Dave’s name. Point is, we take good care of our things, and we don’t rush out and buy the latest and greatest gadgets just because. Chances are, if you truly bought a defective product, it’s going to go out on your when you are within the manufacturer’s warranty period anyhow. So save yourself the money about “what if” your $500 laptop takes a dive in three years? If you can’t pony up the $500 to replace it to a similar product (which, let’s face it, at the rate that technology advances these days, it would probably be superior to what you bought in the first place) then you would simply save until you could replace it.

And, not to mention, sometimes warranties are not the all encompassing protection that we feel they are. For instance, some mattress company’s warranties charge you a deductible to come and look at the mattress, and then decide if they are going to do anything about it, and then charge you to send you a new mattress, that is of a lesser quality than you originally had to begin with. Not my idea of a good deal.

  1. Apps

I simply don’t spend money on mobile apps. Free apps, absolutely, I love to check out new apps for my device! But I figure there’s probably not something super miraculous that’s on an app I would spend money on, that I couldn’t simply do on my laptop.

  1. Music

I used to diligently download songs from iTunes and put them on my iPhone and play them in the car, or while I’m getting ready for the day, etc. And then I realized one of the perks of my Amazon Prime membership is the Amazon Prime music app. And now I play songs from carefully composed playlists of music that I actually enjoy, that also has no commercials and allows me more than 5 skips. Woohoo!

What are some things you quit spending money on to get ahead financially? Share in the comments below!

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Three Month Follow~Up After Taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University

It’s now February 2016. My husband and I began Financial Peace University in September and finished the class in November, 2015. We’ve been working the budget together every month. We’ve been using cash more, and our envelopes. But now it’s time to get real with what’s going on with our finances and how things have changed for us since enrolling in the class. Consider this post a review on Financial Peace University and how it has changed how we work our monthly finances.

We’re definitely more conscious of where our money is going now. It’s easier to track since everything is budgeted. Gone are the days in which we reach the end of the week or month and ask where did all of our money go. That in itself is a nice feeling.

However, there is a feeling of hesitation that I cannot get past. If you’ve read back to my post on Relating With Money, you’ll know that I’m the “Nerd” of my marriage, with the budget spreadsheets, calculations and financial plans galore. So I prepare our budget each month and then my husband and I discuss it together, making some changes and doing some additional planning together. The Zero Based Budget does help – it’s more or less the key to everything in the Dave Ramsey plan. But instead of properly treating that Zero-Based Budget as I should, and ensuring that literally all of our surplus funds after paying our bills and setting aside money for the other things we need to pay for, like food and daycare…this is where I haven’t been maximizing our efforts.

I’m straight scared to deplete all of the funds in our account. Even though I’m tracking things fairly nicely, I’m terrified that some additional auto pay charges are going to come through that I had forgotten to account for. Or that one of us will get sick and we will have a doctor’s visit and a prescription to pay for. There’s tons of possibilities…and so at the end of each pay period we usually have excess funds sitting in our checking account that I know could be working harder for us, but sit there, and occasionally get spent on other things.

So, we’re not following the budget perfectly. Maybe one of these days, this Chicken Little will suck it up and decide to shove off a bunch of our funds to our current debt payoff and then not leave more than $50 or so in our checking account until the next payday. We’ll see how we’ll manage then, and I’m sure we will. It still just scares the bejeezus out of me to do that.

In the meantime, we have made traction with our debt payoffs. One of my other recent posts, How We Paid Off And Closed Four Credit Cards in Three Month’s Time, discusses just that – how we took those stinking credit cards and decided to attack them and get them GONE. Bye bye credit cards. Those accounts are all paid and closed. And I don’t intend to ever take out a credit card again. It was a really nice feeling knowing that those credit cards are behind us and we’ve tackled ALL of the credit cards.

The next debts we’re tackling are big ones…yes, we will be in Baby Step 2 for awhile. Two student loans and my auto loan. My calculations show that we will payoff the auto this year. How intense we get with the payoff and how much money we will throw at it, will determine exactly when we will pay it off. I’m throwing some money at it this month and plan to throw any tax refund money we get at it as well, and so with those two variables, along with however much we plan to put towards the debt on a monthly basis, will determine how quickly it will be paid. My earliest projection is for it to be completed in July and my latest is October, and I’m honestly okay with either one of those dates. It still shows we are making progress and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Now to discuss cash and our envelope system. The envelope system was working out REALLY well for groceries. I was thoroughly enjoying taking out a set amount of funds and making sure I stayed within that budget. And then there weren’t a bunch of random grocery store visits to track on our banking (that’s another nice thing about the envelope system, it makes it that much easier to do a review of your banking and reconcile your statements, if you are using cash more and have few debit card charges!).

However, I kind of threw a wrench in the mix when I started utilizing our grocery store’s online ordering option…in which they only take credit or debit. So that cash I had pulled out to put into envelopes for our grocery budget? Sort of became moot point. At first I would take some of the cash and deposit it back in the bank. So if I spent $85 at the grocery store on debit I would put $100 back into our bank, thinking I had given myself a $15 surplus and covered the groceries I’d ordered, but I’m not sure this is a great system either. The online ordering has been a good time saver for me though, so I’d really like to continue doing it…but back to my original problem, that defeats the purpose of grocery cash/envelope for this purpose…still weighing out how to address this matter the best for our budget.

In short, we definitely think of our finances differently than we used to and aren’t as wasteful with money. I hope to get even more strict with the budget going forward so we can crank down on some of these debts and be completely debt free in the next few years! There’s way better things I’d rather be spending our money on, such as a family vacation and saving for OURSELVES, not sending money to other companies to pay on debts. Soon, I keep telling myself…..soon 🙂

 

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Budget Bridal Shower

Ahhh! Weddings and babies, those are definitely two super happy occasions in people’s lives that we seem to go gaga over and celebrate as best as possible. My little sister is getting married this spring and as her Matron of Honor, I decided to throw her a bridal shower.

Since we’re originally from California, and now live in the Pacific Northwest, most of our family and friends are still down there. My sister’s new mother-in-law is throwing her a shower in California in a few weeks, so the shower I hosted at my home was mainly for her friends and co-workers in the area.

I began searching for bridal shower ideas at one of my favorite places: Pinterest. I knew that I wanted to forego the typical bridal shower cake and do something fancy/unique with cupcakes. The bride and groom are having a small cake at their wedding and then an assortment of cupcakes so this goes right along with their theme. I decided to do this arrangement with the cupcakes for a few reasons. One, it’s adorable! Two, I knew I could easily arrange the cupcakes in this manner, no cupcake stand necessary, and while I would need more cupcakes to make this arrangement than we would need for the party, I decided to also purchase some Cupcake To-Go Boxes for any leftovers so the guests could take a cupcake or two home!

I originally was going to order 2 dozen white cake/white frosting cupcakes from the same bakery my sister and soon-to-be brother in law are getting their wedding cake and cupcakes from. But I wanted to personalize this shower as much as possible and decided to make the cupcakes myself. I simply placed foil over a sheet of cardboard for the base and arranged the cupcakes as in the picture. I purchased some beaded strands at Michael’s craft store to dress up the “dress”. And here’s the final result!

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Other craft projects I did included these initials of their name, a jar with wooden sticks for the guests to write date night ideas, words of advice or encouragement, and this super cute chalkboard sign, also with inspiration from Pinterest. For shower favors, I chose another theme I saw on Pinterest, which was “From Jane’s Shower to Yours”. I made a homemade lemon body scrub, packaged it in cute jelly jars, and thought it was an adorable party favor.

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Here’s the final tablescape (totally stealing this word from Sandra Lee!) for all things party…food was displayed on another table.

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For anyone wanting some inspiration on throwing a small shower on a budget, I’ve decided to break down everything here for the shower, to give you an idea for planning and budgeting for your event. Here we go!

Food

The menu is:

3 types of finger sandwiches (roasted red pepper and goat cheese, cucumber and lemon zest, and cream cheese and jelly)

Crock Pot Meatballs (a party favorite!)

Green Salad

Deviled Eggs

White wine, red wine, and water bottles for beverages

Cupcakes for dessert

Most of the food I purchased along with my regular grocery shopping. All of the ingredients totaled $38.11. Things like butter for the finger sandwiches, mustard and olive oil for the deviled eggs, and cream cheese and jelly, I already had in my fridge.

The cupcakes total was $7.96. I used butter, eggs, and milk that I had on hand.

The total of the wine was $31.96 at Trader Joe’s. I purchased a 24 pack of water bottles for my drink tub and that cost $5 and was included in my grocery shopping total.

Decor

A couple of months before the shower, my sister and I visited a local party store so that I could get an idea of what types of decor she was into. Some party decor can be cheesy and I didn’t want to choose decor she wouldn’t like. The shower was not a surprise and so her helping me with this part went quite well! While we were there, I purchased invitations. I used standard party invitations that were in her wedding colors (cobalt blue and yellow). I purchased 2 packs of yellow and 1 pack of blue and our guest list actually shrunk a bit after our initial count (due to some of the guests going to the shower in California instead of the shower here). So I only had to use 2 packs of the invitations and I just kept the other pack for future use. The 3 packs of invitations was about $7.

Other decor purchased at the party store: honeycomb fans and paper lanterns in her wedding colors, honeycomb wedding bells, a bridal cake sign in sheet, plastic tablecloth, napkins, paper plates…this all came to $18.30.

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I hit up Dollar Tree a week before the shower to fill in the gaps on some other items I wanted to grab. There, I purchased some more wine glasses for serving, a tablecloth, a glass vase to corral the wooden sticks where guests will write their words of advice, and I grabbed a faux silver tray for my chalkboard project. Total: $11.

Next stop was Joann’s, a place that I thought I might be able to finish the rest of my craft shopping for the other DIY projects, but was unable to. I had to go to Michael’s after that. At Joann’s, I grabbed a foam brush set for my paint projects, the yellow paint and the blue paint, the wooden sticks, and a “Bride to Be” sash for my sister. I won’t embarrass her meanly, but I will make her stand out! Hehe. Total at Joann’s was $11.45.

And finally, at Michael’s, I finished up my DIY items with some extra fine bright gold glitter for the ampersand, a nice cobalt blue bow to top my chalkboard platter, the crystal beads for the cupcake dress, a pack of chalk, and the wooden A, T, and &. Total: $25.63.

From Amazon, I ordered the following: Mr & Mrs. burlap banner, lemon essential oil (for the body scrub), PVA glue (for the glitter on the ampersand), chalkboard paint and the cupcake to-go boxes, total $34.87.

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Favors

For the DIY lemon body scrub, as I mentioned above I purchased a lemon essential oil from Amazon. I used coconut oil from the grocery store (on sale for $5) and white sugar I had in my own pantry to make the scrub itself. I purchased the jelly jars to contain the scrub for $10.47 at the grocery store as well. All in all these favors cost me $22.51 to make 12 of them, which I think is a really reasonable price for a shower favor that isn’t some useless chotchkie.

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So for those of you keeping count, let’s tally up my bridal shower now: $208.79.

Mind you, this total is simply to host the shower, do the DIY crafts, decor, and feed the guests. If $200 seems steep to you, keep in mind there are things you can do to keep the cost even lower. Things like not serving alcohol, and keeping the decor to a minimum, would have brought the total down. But the point is, you can throw a lovely bridal or baby shower and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. I didn’t buy all of this in one sitting either – these were items purchased over the course of about two weeks time and worked on little by little. If you are co-hosting a shower with someone else, keep in mind that you can discuss how to divvy up the costs of hosting the event in order to make sure that everyone is putting in a fair amount, and your portion of the shower will be even lower.

Now, another thing to mention too is that the $208.79 total doesn’t include the bride’s gift — But this post is about how to make a bridal shower that is affordable, memorable, and an all around great time!

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How We Paid off (& Closed!) Four Credit Cards in Three Month’s Time!

In September 2015, my husband and I began a journey on Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace plan. I had been listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcasts for months by that time and knew the basics of the plan, and then my husband agreed to attend the class with me. We enrolled and began learning about the plan in more detail and how it can help us move forward toward a great financial future.

One of the best things about Dave’s plan, that most people don’t ever think to do, is the idea that we should focus on one financial goal at a time. Whether that’s saving for an emergency fund or paying off debt, the idea is that if you concentrate on doing that one task with intensity, you’ll have better results than when you tried to do five different things, like saving, investing in your 401k, and paying off debts all at once.

When we started the plan we had four credit cards between the two of us with small-ish balances. These were cards that had been in circulation for awhile, we would usually charge them up making larger purchases (new vacuum, new computer for school) then we would feel accomplished when we paid them off, and then later on down the road, charge something else..the cycle was a little vicious.

This time, however, we decided to close the dang cards for good. Why keep spinning in the hamster wheel with it all? If we were getting out of debt, then we weren’t going to dance around it. Let’s get out of stinking debt!

The first one we tackled had over a $600 balance. First check on the list, and it felt good. This card had been paid off several times before, but gosh, it felt good to pay it off and just close it.

The second card had about a $900 balance, and we paid it off in a few big chunks and again closed that. Next came my husband’s personal card with about a $900 balance and we were definitely making good progress by then.

The last card, my personal card, started out with around an $1,100 balance, but since we only made minimum payments on the card in the months we were paying off the others, by the time we got to this card in our debt snowball list, the balance was under $1,000.00. I was lounging around one Saturday morning, reviewing our finances for our mid-month checkup (that time when the second paycheck comes in and I review what has been paid and what has yet to pay, and we figure out how much cash we’re going to be withdrawing for our envelopes), and I showed our budgeting projection for the second half of the month to my husband, who said, let’s just be done with this. Let’s bite the bullet and pay the whole thing off right now!

Now that’s a hubby that’s on board 🙂

Would our finances be a little tight until the next payday? Yup, but I had already allocated funds for our envelopes which included food and groceries. Since I’ve been completing an Autoimmune Protocol Diet and making most of our meals from scratch, we’ve barely been eating out the past month, and I’ve still (mostly) stayed within our grocery budget. If I’ve gone over budget for the week it’s been by about $20 and that was because I picked up a beef roast or extra pork chops, and we had sufficient cash in the envelope to do so.

So total debt paid off between late October – mid January = $3,500.00.

So where did the extra funds come from to payoff four credit cards in three months? This is mostly all from funds from doing our zero-based budget, and being purposeful and intentional with the excess funds leftover after everything is allocated. It’s only been a few months, but as time has gone on we’ve been able to better complete our monthly budget and know what to expect and project how much money is leftover after the bills and envelopes are allocated. We’ve kept better track of things like autodraft payments, which actually can catch you by surprise if you’re not careful. I have to watch and account for things in our budget like the bi-monthly pest control plan that will sneak up on me if I’m not careful. But once all of that is taken care of, the leftovers is what helps us put large chunks of cash toward our debt, and now that the small ones are all out of the way, it’s time to tackle the big ones.

Our next goal is to payoff my car, which we just purchased a year and a half ago, before we had learned about Dave’s plan. At a 0% interest rate, my entire payment already goes to the principal balance which is AWESOME. Not that financing is OK, I’m a Dave student after all, but it’s so nice to have a loan where I’m not competing with the bank for which dollar goes to them and which goes to MY balance. We will have the car paid off this year. Things like bonuses from work, any tax refund or raise money, will determine if it’s paid off earlier this year or later in the year, but either way we are on track to get this next debt out of our lives in 2016!

I wish you great luck in tackling your debts as well!