Cash For School Update: June 2016

Cash for school

It’s time once again for our monthly check-in! How are we doing with our goal to remain debt-free while I earn a graduate degree?

Last month, we were excited to learn that I won a $2500 scholarship. I have applied for a couple more scholarships since then, but no bites thus far. That’s OK, though, because I will keep trying until I complete my degree. I have nine months left!

Whether or not I win another scholarship, I think we will be just fine. My next tuition payment is due July 12th, and it will be a doozy. My credit hours go up to 7 hours this session, and that means tuition will be $4300 instead of the $3800 we have been used to paying. I am in the homestretch though. This next session is 4 out of 7, so we have gotten over the hump, and it’s all downhill from here!

I received my scholarship check already, and that means we will be covering $1800 out of our own pockets. We have had a few unexpected expenses thanks to a dead reverse osmosis filter, dead cell phone, and the tree that decided to fall on our house, so our emergency fund dipped a little bit, but we are still covered for the next tuition payment in October and part of December.

There are changes going on at my work that have the potential for more hours and regular hours that will not increase my child care bills, but nothing is set in stone yet. If that comes to fruition, we may increase our earnings in the coming months. Cross your fingers for me!

In the meantime, I am on a break from school this week, but am working most days. My secondary goal is to work, work, work on those scholarship applications. My goal is to churn out five applications.

What are you doing to meet your goals this month?

Feeding 5 For $100 Per Week: 4th Week of June 2016

Kroger: $85.03

We hosted a sleepover Friday night and I had about 4 hours worth of sleep. I’m not sure how I made it through the store without falling asleep in the cereal aisle, but somehow I did. I opted to only hit the nearby Kroger this week.

This coming week I am on a break from grad school and one of my coworkers has most of the week off. I am also going to be working on scholarship applications and doing some extra work related to this blog and another website, so it’s a full work week.

I bought a few treats the kids don’t usually get to have to make going to the sitter so much a little more fun (applesauce, juice boxes) and I have planned a slow cooker soup and other easy meals. My daughter helped me shop and got to choose popsicles. The mister requested hard cider.

2016-06-25 17.27.55

Amazon Subscribe and Save: $46.70

(Clif bars double pack and 2 quarts of organic maple syrup)

Weekly Total: $131.73

End of Month Total: $404.70

Frugal Steps and Stumbles


Frugal Steps:

  1.  I am going to get a nice haircut and highlight for the first time in 18 months for my in-laws anniversary party. I bought a Groupon for haircut and highlight this week for 50% off.

    I worked one day this week.


    I attended a free webinar about Convertkit, a tool I plan to use for this blog and several other websites.


    I took a Kroger survey for 50 extra fuel points.


    I borrowed two movies and several books from library.


    I used Youtube for a free kettlebell workout.


    I pulled our old 3T clothes out of storage for toddler.


    I used an $18 gift Amazon gift card to offset the cost of our monthly Subscribe and Save order.


    I got $40.93 back from the Amazon eBook class action settlement. My husband’s cell phone died this week (#1 for the week) and we used the card to help offset the cost.


    Our reverse osmosis filter died this week (#2 for the week), but  the mister researched online and figured out how to fix it himself. We may need to replace the whole thing soon, but he is confident he can do it himself, saving us the cost of a technician.


    Proving that bad things come in threes, we had a massive storm in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Several tornadoes were spotted, and we had to cower in the basement at 3 am. As we ran to the basement, our entire house rattled and shook, and we heard that telltale train sound. After the all-clear, my husband opened the front door, and discovered the sycamore tree in our front yard had fallen on our house and was completely blocking that exit. We are very lucky it did not go through the window as our daughters slept and did not crash through the roof. It twisted as it broke in half and scraped down the front of our house. I had to cancel my shift, as our kids did not sleep more than 4 hours. We finally got a tree removal service who will come this afternoon, and we will lose the entire tree. We are still waiting for an inspector to come and check out the roof. We know there is some damage but not how much.


    We are calling this a frugal step, however, because thanks to insurance, we will only have to pay about $1300 for our deductible plus non-covered stump removal. We also learned that the sycamore tree that is being removed tends to be pretty allergenic, and the tree doctor recommended a smaller Canadian red cherry that will be planted further away from our house. We had been plotting about saving for a new roof once I finished paying for grad school, and if we end up needing a new roof, we will not have to pay a cent. Needless to say, I am hoping the microburst with 80 mph winds helped us to make that happen. We’ll see what the inspector thinks.

Frugal Stumbles:

  1. We hosted a sleepover for my son’s birthday last night, and I decided to order pizza instead of making one. Post- windstorm, the kids were not sleeping well and I was dead on my feet.

Playing The Long Game: Personal Finance Edition

I’m a Game of Thrones fan, and I have been tuning in every week with my free HBO Now 30 day trial this month. If you watch the show then you know this world is full of plotters and schemers,  some of them obvious and some of them still pulling invisible strings for an end game we can’t even comprehend yet.

What this world has in common with ours is that we all play our own game of thrones in a way, making chess moves that we think will bring us to the life we want.  The truth is, some of us plan ours out carefully, and some of us kind of bumble around, reacting to what is in front of us or following our desires, until sometimes we find ourselves up you-know-what creek. Now, we can end up in that creek no matter how carefully we plan (I’m thinking catastrophic illness, etc.), but it’s less likely if we carefully consider our moves.

From Game of Thrones Wikia
From Game of Thrones Wikia

Sometimes when I am up until midnight writing a literature review for school or tweaking a website or running downstairs to soak some dried beans so they will be ready for the next day, I am reminded of Littlefinger carefully making a small move here and a small move there to be prepared for larger and larger moves as the game moves on. The short game might yield me pennies or dollars. It may also yield me some stressful late nights as I work on an extra project that will take a long time to build and have no appreciable short-term gains, but in the long game it could potentially yield a gold mine of passive income or be a source of flexible work opportunity.

Take this blog, for example. It has cost me a lot of time to get it up and running, and has just started to earn a few dollars every month. As I tweak it and grow it, I hope it will start bringing in a little more. My graduate degree is a potential source of flexible at-home work income.  A retirement account is similar, adding to the stockpile and steadily growing until it is enough to support you a few decades down the line.

Looking at the short term gains and the short term costs can be discouraging. Why bother eating lentils and rice? Why drive that old beater car? Why subject yourself to a few years of late nights going back to school?

An old friend once told me that there are only so many chess moves you can make in life, so don’t mess up your end game by starting out with bad moves. An extraordinarily bad move might destroy your end game completely. Some extraordinarily good moves might bring you to checkmate much faster than expected.

I myself have made some bad moves (choosing an anthropology program the first go round instead of nursing or pharmacy) and some better moves (choosing the in-state school I can commute to that offered me a full scholarship over the out of state private college with the six-figure price tag). While the end goal for us is having enough to free us from working, you can start thinking of your own end goal and the moves it might take to get you there. Even if you are already retired, it’s not too late for a financial goal, whether it be to live within your means, have a legacy for family or charity, or have enough to be buried without straining your family.

What about you? What are you doing to up your long game?


Frugal Step: Make A Menu


Sunday: Sauteed Zucchini and Onion, Sliced Tomatoes, Either Ham or Cheese Sandwiches, Plums

Monday: Spicy Sofritas Veggie Bowls (Made with tofu and pinto beans),

Tuesday: Hunt and Peck or Scrambled Eggs and Toast

Wednesday: Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas, Grapes

Thursday: Kidney Beans and Rice with Garlic Molasses Sauce, Salad, Peaches

Friday: Slumber Party- Pizza, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies

Saturday: Shirred Eggs with Herbs and Garlic, Shallot Mustard Tomato Salad

Sunday:  Kielbasa or Mettwurst, German Potato Salad (my recipe), Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Onion Dijon Sauce


Mango/peach popsicles (experimenting)




Frugal Steps and Stumbles


Frugal Steps:

  1. I bought swim suits for my girls for next year on sale and used a coupon code and Ebates (referral link) to buy them for a song. I have exactly zero non-maternity shorts, so I bought two for myself, and a dress for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary party. Can I tell you how excited I was when I found a dress that was plus sized and petite, and actually fit me and looked good? If you have never tried Ebates, I highly recommend them for any time you shop online. They send a check to you quarterly, and I have never had a problem getting one. Right now Land’s End has 3% cash back.  I use Ebates when I shop on Amazon, buy clothes, or send flowers.
  2. We had a play date with friends, and we baked cookies, served lots of fruit, and played with the hose.
  3. When my nieces spent the night so they could babysit for me over two days, I made them Vegan Cincinnati Chili with lentils- and they liked it! Half a pound of lentils is only 85 cents, compared to the $6 minimum I would have had to spend on 2 pounds of beef.
  4. We borrowed Spectre and Mockingjay Part II from the library.
  5. I picked up two shifts this week.
  6. I complained to Time Warner about my internet being off for 2-3 days, and they are supposed to decrease my bill by a few dollars next month.
  7. My sister is taking my son to miniature golf, and got a B1G1 deal through a local group deal site. I bought movie tickets to Finding Dory and will get 5% cash back through my credit card, plus got 50% off the tickets price for going to a matinee.
  8. Most exciting- we started potty training our toddler, Miss C! We are using a pull-up at night, for nap, and during travel, but she is otherwise in underwear. This is decreasing our pull-up use a great deal.

Frugal Stumbles:

  1. I had an unplanned doctor appointment followed by a make-up swimming class and multiple errands with the kids Wednesday afternoon, so I took them to Chick-Fil-A for lunch. I mitigated the cost by getting one large fry to share between the 4 of us and several 12-piece chicken nuggets instead of 3 separate kids meals and one adult meal.

Frugal Step: Make A Menu


Sunday: Fed by Grandma

Monday: Hunt and peck

Tuesday: Scrambled Eggs and Sauteed Peppers and Onions

Wednesday: Vegan Cincinnati Style Chili (I started making this last week but had no cumin, so I quickly switched to taco salad)

Thursday: Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Friday: Brazilian Rice and Beans (someone posted about these in a forum, and I decided I had to try!), Fresh Sliced Tomato, Avocado, and Onion

Saturday: Dinner with Grandma and the mister hunts and pecks (my Father’s Day gift is to take the kids to my mom’s for the day)

Sunday: Italian Peasant Soup with Cabbage and White Beans


Feeding Five for $100 Per Week: 2nd Week of June 2016

Kroger:  $68.41

LOTS of fruits and veg. I found a few things on clearance, including a couple packs of tofu, so I need to decide what I will make with that.

2016-06-11 16.22.34


Dorothy Lane: $16.82

I knew I was coming in nicely under budget, so I opted to get a little treat from this expensive store. It’s pastrami-seasoned turkey and fancy-pants decorated cookies.

2016-06-11 16.11.10

Weekly Total: $85.23

Running Total: $193.03