Cash Envelope Budgeting System & Giveaway

Edited to add:  To buy Cash Budget Organizers click the picture below. The Giveaway has ended.

Cash Budget Organizer with Cash Budget System by SimpliSave

With the economy the way it is, many folks are having to make various financial adjustments. We decided it was time for a renewed effort regarding that dreaded “B” word; Budget. We’ve chosen to try the cash envelope method of budgeting & spending. I’d heard about this for some time now, but never got around to implementing it. First of all, the idea of carrying around a fistful of envelopes filled with cash did not appeal to me, nor did losing the rewards points on our Visa not to mention the convenience. Of course, that convenience and those perks come at a price if spending gets out of control. I was shocked to see what credit card interest rates currently are now for even those with great credit! So, we’ve devised our own personal take on this system and I’ll share it with you it here. The first part was discovering a better carrier of cash than paper envelopes. I learned that several crafty individuals create and sell cash organizers for just this purpose. In my search for the perfect one for us to use, I ended up with two and have decided to do a Giveaway for one.

Now, for those who’ve not yet heard of the basics of a cash envelope system of budgeting basically it goes like this: You figure out your budget based on your income and expenses. Then you decide how much you have to spend in each of the categories, label the envelopes with the category names and place the appropriate amount of cash in each envelope. Generally, this is done on a weekly basis, so for example you might withdraw a certain amount of cash on a set day each week and “load” your envelopes. The idea is that once the cash in each category is gone for that week, you are done spending in that category. Now, I personally don’t see the point of putting cash in envelopes for things like the electric bill, etc. So for all the set amount bills each month that have to be paid, we’ve opted to have the amounts directly withdrawn through an automatic payment plan. We’re talking about things like rent/mortgage, power, water, trash, insurance, etc. Then we decided to have those bills paid on autopay and through our checking account or our bank credit card [where it was an option] in order to continue to earn some rewards. Because these amounts are the same each month, we know how much to immediately pay from our checking account in order to cover those “charges”. We’ve decided to discontinue using our credit card for anything other than the autopay bills and gas. The reason for gas is because it’s pretty hard to “splurge” and go crazy buying gas and there’s a significant convenience issue in paying at the pump vs. going inside with cash so overall we felt this one charge was smart. So, this leaves categories for things like groceries, household items, entertainment, dining out, clothing and misc. We’ve decided to use the cash system on these categories. Coming up with amounts for each of these was a little challenging. What we ending up doing was to look at what we’ve been spending, decide on a reasonable amount to “shave off” of that total and came up with a new, reduced total. The savings can then be used for other things such as paying off debt, savings and other financial goals.

The Giveaway:
One lucky reader will receive their own cute cash carrier (pictured above)to get them started on the system. To enter, please leave a comment below. The “theme” is your favorite budgeting & money saving tips. If you don’t have a tip to share, that’s fine, just leave a comment to be entered. Oh, and as always tell your friends to read SAHM: Surviving Assorted Home Mayhem! Receive one additional entry by either blogging or tweeting a link to your favorite post at SAHM: Surviving Assorted Home Mayhem. Are you a new reader and don't have a favorite post yet? Take a look at some of the selected favorites along the left side-bar to get started. When you link to a post (on your blog or Twitter or both if you'd like) leave one additional comment below letting me know. Contest entries will open now and run through Oct 14th. At that time I’ll select the winner through random draw, contact them through e-mail (make sure you have an e-mail address on your comment!) and mail them their organizer. Good luck and happy budgeting!

Grasshopper & Hibiscus Pictorial

Now, there's a blog title I never thought I'd write. Hubby took some stunning photos and I was going to use one for a Wordless Wednesday post, however I could not pick just one! So here you go:

(click photo to enlarge)

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Adventures in Natural Cupcakes: From “Ick!” to “Aww!”

As my readers know, last month we celebrated a very special birthday (little guy turned 3!) with a fun party and gourmet cupcakes from a local cupcakery. I got to thinking perhaps I should attempt to make some gourmet-ish cupcakes myself. I try to be as healthy as possible though we are not afraid of the occasional treat. But even when we have treats I like to keep them reasonably healthy. Lately I’ve decided there is just no need for all this artificial crap (flavors & colors) and I’ve been determined to eliminate it and find natural alternatives. So, in my quest to make reasonably healthy, natural and gourmet-like cupcakes I’ve had some interesting experiences. First of all, I discovered a delicious and all natural cupcake mix from my favorite store, good ol’ Trader Joe’s.

This vanilla mix makes a delicious cupcake!  cupcake mix

With half the battle conquered, it was on to the frosting. I wanted to keep the fat and calories down so I attempted to use a reduced fat butter cream recipe. First of all, it did not work for décor purposes as it was not substantial enough to pipe and just laid there in a glob (Sadly, I did not take photos of this monstrosity.) Secondly, it also apparently contained a strange ingredient which caused the Hubby to break out in hives. Then I found a regular Butter cream recipe used by the folks at the famous Sprinkles cupcakes. I ended up slightly reducing the sugar and cutting the entire recipe in half and it was still plenty to use for a dozen cupcakes. I also used this vanilla which I highly recommend:


The next trick was to get it colored naturally. I ordered a natural food coloring from my local health food store with very disappointing and frankly rather disgusting looking results. Combined with the fact that I did not have the proper size round tip to pipe the frosting on the way it should be and I ended up with this:

cupcake mistake

Scary, isn’t it? It looks a little an albino earthworm crawled on top.

So, I did some research and found a different natural food coloring and TA DA! The perfect pink! (I haven’t tried the other colors yet.) I still have not been able to find the large round tip so I decided to simply use the large round opening of the coupler itself with no tip and it worked much the way I wanted it to. To top off the cupcakes, literally, I found naturally colored sugar crystals as well as delicious naturally colored Sunspire chocolate drops in beautiful pastel colors. This is the end result:

 cupcake success cupcake

We recently celebrated my Mom’s 81st birthday with these and I was pleased with the taste and looks. Move over, Martha!

Brothers and Chalk Drawings

The other day I hauled out the sidewalk chalk and had no idea what a hit it would be for both boys. Despite the ridiculous age gap there’s still an amazing amount of things these two still enjoy together and share in common. For example, one is the response I get when I ask how school went. The shared answer is essentially nothing since the little one doesn’t have the words yet and the Teenager just won’t use them. But back to the chalk. So, the boys started drawing …well, technically Teenager started an elaborate drawing which his little brother “helped” to color.

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In fact little guy helped so much that I finally told Teenager if he really wanted to do something creative that didn’t get messed up to go on the other side of the yard where little guy couldn’t get to him. I told him that if he practiced enough perhaps he could do things like this guy:


I was pretty impressed when a while later I went over to see what he had created:


Not bad at all! Oh, and even though he had no little brother to bother him or mess up his creation, he had two animals who apparently would not leave him alone. I discovered this because I noticed there was a cat with pink paws and a big dog with a blue nose. Sadly, I didn’t have the camera handy to snap photos of this but you’ll just have to take my word for it. It was cute.

Marvelously Mediocre Mayhem

So I’ve been thinking lately about all the gajillions of blogs out there and all the mommy bloggers particularly. I’ve found it interesting to see which blogs gain attention, especially those that end up gaining a huge following. It seems that just one incident, post or event can make a blog “go viral” as they say, and then your cousin’s, sister’s roommate’s boss has a neighbor who gets her hair done by this lady who says you just have to read this awesome blog. Then the next thing you know, Oprah is calling and you’ve got a book deal and you’re bumping into celebrities at the local Fro-Yo and they want a picture with you. Not that that’s happened to me or anything.

In fact, sometimes I’m actually surprised I don’t have more readers than I already do. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I’m all impressed with my own awesomeness and think everyone else should be too, (well, okay, maybe a little) it’s just that, well, with material like this how can you not be telling everyone you know that they just have to read about the latest happenings over at SAHM: Surviving Assorted Home Mayhem ? But then I think; hmmm…the “popular blogs” out there get plenty of nasty comments, too, and that’s no fun to deal with. Then there's that whole deal of trying to avoid the paparazzi, all the flights to appear on talk shows and being nervous when that red light goes on and you decide you really shouldn’t have had that second cup of coffee that morning. And of course all the revenue coming in from advertising, speaking engagements and such and what would I do with it all?

Then I started thinking about where I fit into all of this and it finally occurred to me! I’m famous for not being famous. (Or I should be anyway.) I mean, if pseudo-celebrities can be "famous for being famous” why can’t I be famous for not being famous? Makes perfect sense to me. Of course so do things like health insurance and marriage equality for all but I digress. So, I’m thinking that I’m just going to marvel at the mediocrity of the mayhem, so to speak . But please, if you read something that inspires you to share with your friend, neighbor, sister or cousin please by all means do. Share the mayhem – spread the love. Or something like that.

How I spent my 3-day weekend

{There's still time to enter the $100 Giveaway! Click here.}

I know there is tendency on many mommy blogs to brag and I think thus far I’ve pretty much avoided that. As readers know I’m pretty down to earth and up front about my various struggles with daily life, weight loss, and other such things. But at the risk of sounding like I’m bragging I must share with you how I spent my holiday weekend…. I cleaned out the garage. Yes folks, you read that correctly. The hubby and I joined forces and spent many, many fun-filled hours going through boxes of old VHS tapes including such titles as Buns of Steel and Richard Simmons Sweatin’ to the Oldies. We cracked open dusty boxes filled with more “bachelor pad crap” that the hubby hasn’t been able to figure out what to do with since we got married (nearly four years ago). We also have several shelves filled with things we tell ourselves we’ll sell on e-bay. The problem with that is that it takes so much time to prepare, photograph and list these things and I haven’t been terribly motivated to do it lately. It’s really a gamble because although there are definitely things worth putting in the effort to sell there are others that I’ll think will bring in the bucks and don’t and then I’m left irritated that between all the fees and time spent I’d have been better off just giving it away to begin with. We did however establish a hefty pile to take to charity, so once the hubby does a “load up and drop off” that will clear out quite a bit. In the meantime, we did bring in several boxes of things that I’m currently working on trying to sell and I’m still deliberating about what other items to simply place in charity pile vs. sell. Of course, when it comes to the baby stuff, it’s always bittersweet coming across it. First there are the emotions of; “Oh, remember when he had his music box in his crib?” And then there’s the moment when the little guy spots the music box and says; “Daddy, put in crib?” and we have to go through that whole scenario. Finally, there’s the thoughts behind how much all that baby stuff costs and the mathematical equations to decide whether or not we should attempt to recoup some of the costs through selling it. So, it’s been an exhausting weekend but we’ve made a serious dent in the garage and gained some much needed space and organization. We still have a few corners to tackle, but the majority is done and now we’re down to getting rid of things accordingly. It feels good to get this job well underway. We have a few other home projects we want to tackle here shortly and the garage was key to getting to the others. The end result of getting all this done is more thrilling than a fun-filled weekend because the benefit is having the space and organization we need to function and enjoy our home and that’s something I find very important. I’ve always believed that everything starts from within the home and that the more you make it a place where you enjoy it and can be comfortable the better off you are in all other aspects of life. I try to keep in mind my motto: “Have in your home and life only things that provide necessary function, add true beauty, or bring genuine happiness.”

The lure of the Target Dollar Spot

Okay, I must admit I have a problem. At first I told myself that I needed additional notepads, sticky notes and magnetic dry erase boards for the fridge and who could resist such things priced at only a dollar? (Of course, Target knows this, and it’s all part of their evil plan.) But then it got out of hand. I mean, yes, they are only a dollar (though a few things are a couple dollars) but when you spot myriads of enticingly cute and functional baskets, buckets, placemats, toys, crayons, board books, etc. you suddenly wind up with twenty bucks worth of stuff. And your husband’s asking: “what’s with all the Hello Kitty pencils in the house”? So, I guess I need to reel it in and not stop at the Dollar Spot so often . And I’m going to do it. Of course, not until after the holidays.